STANDARDS FOR CHILDREN'S SUPERVISED CONTACT SERVICES:
These standards have been developed as a result of a decision made at the inaugural New Zealand Conference on Children's Supervised Contact in June 1997. At the Annual General Meeting of the New Zealand Association of Children's Supervised Contact in November 1997 it was agreed to trial this draft of the standards until the next AGM of the Association.
Standard 1: Principles of the Service
Services will operate according to the following principles:
- The safety and welfare of the child is the paramount consideration
- The service will honour the Treaty of Waitangi
- The service is neutral and independent from the parties, the dispute or the difficulties.
- The service is for the benefit of the child.
- The service is sensitive to the cultural background of the child and the family.
- The service aims to be contactable to all clients irrespective of income, disability, language, or location.
The following documents underpin the delivery of children's supervised contact services:
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in particular Article 9.3: The child's right to maintain contact with both parents; Article 12.1: The child's right to be heard; Article 12.2: The child's right to be heard in judicial or administrative proceedings affecting the child; Article 19.2: The protection of the child from abuse, and Article 19.2: The establishment of programmes to support a child who has been maltreated.
- The Oranga Tamariki Act 1989, Children's and Young People's Well-being Act 1989, Section 4(c) assisting children and young persons and their parents, family, whanau, hapu, iwi, and family group where the relationship between a child or young person and his or her parents, family, whanau, hapu, iwi, or family group is disrupted. Section 6: The welfare and the interests of the child are to be the paramount consideration.
- The Vulnerable Children's Act 2014. Section 6: Improving the well-being of vulnerable children. Child Protection Policies and Children Worker Safety Checking.
- Care of Children Amendment Act 2005. Section 4: Childs welfare and best interests to be paramount.
- Oranga Tamariki Act 1989
- The Domestic Violence Protection Act (1995): Section 5 (1) the objects of the Act.
Standard 2: Management of the Service
All services will have a clearly defined management structure.
- There will be a written document stating what the management structure is and the responsibilities of each person
- There will be a written document stating the organisation's mission and goals
- The management of the service is responsible for ensuring that the service complies with relevant legislation such as that dealing with employment contracts, equal opportunity and anti-discrimination, privacy, occupational health and safety, disaster management, and accident compensation.
- Where a children's supervised contact service is part of an organisation which has other functions, it is the responsibility of the management of that organisation to ensure that there is no conflict of interest in the principles and standards of those functions provided.
- The management of the service is responsible for ensuring that a service is provided which meets these standards.
Standard 3: Staff
All services will have a personnel policy which covers the following:
- Policies and procedures for recruitment. These include job descriptions, advertising of positions, procedures for screening staff, and policies by which staff are assessed and appointed.
- A training policy and plan, and identification of the kinds of training which service staff need in order to be able to deliver the service
- A written complaints procedure for staff
- A staff supervision policy
- Policy and procedures for discipline and dismissal of staff.
Standard 4: Security
All services will establish procedures which ensure that as far as possible the safety of the child, the day-to-day parent/carer, the visiting person, and the service staff can be ensured. These procedures will include:
- Determining the level of risk which the service can accommodate. This would include consideration of staff expertise, the number of staff available for the service offered, the kind of premises being used, the times at which the service operates;
- An intake and review process (see Standards 7 and 13) in which prospective clients are screened and appropriate supervision delivered;
- A critical incident management plan
- Written protocols with the police which would establish what response and priority they would accord requests for assistance.
Standard 5: Confidentiality
All services will have a policy on confidentiality which will include:
- An identification of material which the service considers to be confidential
- Limits to confidentiality of information. This would include situations where the safety of the child is at risk, suspected child abuse, threats to the safety of staff or visiting party and criminal offences.
- A protocol for the notification of child abuse
- Procedures the service has in place to keep confidential material secure.
The policy will be available to all involved with the service including the courts, referral agencies, and clients.
Standard 6: Administrative Functions
Management of the service will put in place administrative procedures which enable the service to run smoothly and preserve the privacy of the clients. These processes will include:
- Financial records which are appropriate, follow accepted accounting principles, and are audited regularly;
- Records which include factual details about the child, the family and any other visiting party, referral into the service, factual details of the contact sessions, a record of attendance at the contact service and exit from the service. Files should be kept secure so that no unauthorised person is able to have contact to them.
- Written guidelines which specify the rules applied by the service, the roles and responsibilities of the service and the clients, and the criteria used for accepting cases
- Systems which satisfy the requirements of an external funder.
- Statistics on service usage, demand for services, evaluation and to report to funders. Any statistics collected, compiled and disseminated should not compromise client confidentiality.
- A procedures manual which spells out more detailed guidelines relating to the particular service which is offered. The manual should include forms, operation protocols, and administrative procedures.
- A document which specifies the opening hours of the service
- A document which specifies any fees charged.
Standard 7: Intake
All services will have a process for intake of clients. This will include:
- Collecting details about the clients: All parties involved.
- Obtaining copies of current court orders
- Providing full information to the clients so that they can decide whether to use the service. This would include the purpose, duration, limitations, responsibility for the child, security arrangements and costs of the service.
- An explanation of the complaints procedure of the service.
- An assessment of the nature and extent of risk and the level of supervision needed
- An assessment of whether the service can provide the type of supervision required
- An assessment of whether the child is likely to be comfortable with the proposed arrangements
- Procedures for settling the child into the contact service
- An explanation of the reasons for data collection
- An explanation of privacy and confidentiality requirements which apply.
The policy on intake needs to be read in conjunction with the section in the Court Protocols on Referral of cases to a service provider for supervised contact.
Standard 8: Contracts
Contracts will be established between the service and all adult parties. There will be separate contracts for the day-to-day carer and visiting person. The contracts will be written documents and signed by the clients and the service. Contracts will include agreement to:
- Adhere to the principles and guidelines of the service provider
- Adhere to the arrival and departure times
- Abide by the rules about drug and alcohol use and influence
- Agree to the child management policy of the service
- Refrain from involving the child in disputes between the adult
- Agree to the conditions under which the service would be terminated.
Standard 9: Running a Contact Session
Services will establish procedures for running contact sessions. Procedures will cover the following
- Briefing staff prior to the session
- Staggered arrival and departure times for each parent/visitor
- Refusing entry to any unauthorised person
- Responsibility for the child(ren) during the session
- Toileting arrangements
- The service's policy on child management and discipline
- Monitoring the activities and conversation of the visiting person and the child to ensure that the child is kept safe and is not verbally or physically abused, threatened or manipulated
- Facilitation of visiting person-child interaction if appropriate
- Arrangements for the child in relation to diet, medication and any other special needs
- Dealing with incidents and emergencies
- Providing feedback to the day-to-day carer, if appropriate
- Staff debriefing after a contact session.
Standard 10: Professional Observation of the Child During Contact Sessions
Services may be asked by any of the parties to an order for permission for professionals to observe a child or children at a contact session. Each service will develop a policy covering this possibility including the right of the service to refuse observation.
The policy will cover:
- Keeping the welfare and safety of the child as the paramount consideration
- The impact on the service's operation by having another person present
- Preserving the confidentiality of other clients
- The views of the day-to-day carer and visiting parent on allowing observation to take place
- Whether the observation can be carried out more naturally elsewhere.
Standard 11: Reports
All services will have a policy about the preparation of reports. This policy will cover:
- The principle on which reports would be prepared: That the child's safety and welfare are the principal consideration.
- Situations in which the service would and would not prepare reports
- The kind of reports which the service can provide. In most cases these will be factual reports. Most services will not be in a position to provide evaluative reports or deliver professional opinions about the child's wellbeing.
The policy of the service on reports should be consistent with the section on information and reports of the Protocol between the Association and the Family Court.
Standard 12: Affidavits
Services will develop a policy on producing affidavits on supervised contact cases. This will cover the procedures to be used in the particular service when an affidavit is required.
Standard 13: Case Review, Termination of the Service and Evaluation
Services will have processes for reviewing cases, for terminating the service, and for evaluating the effectiveness of the service. These will cover:
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- The times in the delivery of the service to a particular client at which a review would take place, that is, after so many sessions or months of using the service
- The process the review would take, and the reasons for reviewing cases
- Situations in which the service would be terminated for a client
- Methods for evaluating the service. This could include client feedback, and seeking evaluation from other agencies involved such as the Courts.