Divergent Expectations and Experience: an Empirical Study of the use of Children's Contact Services in Australia
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In this article, an overview of the key findings from the Children's Contact Services Project is presented. Children's Contact Services (CCSs) assist separated parents to manage contact arrangements with their children through the provision of supervised visitation and changeover services. The aims of this project were to investigate the use of CCSs in Australia by referring agencies (eg. courts and legal practitioners), and clients of contact services (parents and children), and to consider the views and expectations of these key stakeholders regarding those usages. This approach was based on the assumption that there are currently conflicting usages and expectations of contact services, and that this situation could compromise children's well-being. The findings were derived from two studies. The first study involved conducting 142 in-depth interviews with representatives from the Australian Government, the courts and legal practitioners who referred families to CCSs, CCS staff and management, as well as parents and children who used CCSs. The second study comprised a quantitative analysis of client data collected by CCS staff from 396 families who had used a government funded CCS in August 2003. The findings demonstrated that in Australia, CCSs provided an invaluable service that was viewed positively by government, referral agents, CCS staff and management, and by the parents and children who used them. Despite this generally positive view, there were conflicting expectations of CCSs that, under certain circumstances, compromised children's well-being and that of their parents, particularly their residence mothers.
International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family