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The Impact of Covid-19 on Child Related Supervision Agencies

May 7, 2020

Carr & Co

By Grace Coombs, Lawyer

The impact of Covid-19 has seen many services introduce provisions and alter usual practices, in order to combat the restrictions and risks of the pandemic.

Child related supervision agencies, including supervised handover and contact services, are at no exclusion.

What are Child Related Supervision Agencies?

Child related supervisions agencies are services designed to assist separated families who require a third party to supervise the:

  1. handover of children from one parent to the other; or
  2. supervision of a parent’s time with children.

Supervised visits may be implemented for various reasons, including to ensure the safety the children or to re-establish a relationship between a parent and children following a period of no contact.

How Supervision Agencies are Combatting Covid-19

While many supervision agencies have temporarily closed, the agencies that do remain open have implemented various restrictions and hygiene practices to combat the impact of Covid-19.

However (like many other services), these agencies have expressed that current arrangements are fluid and dependent upon Government restrictions and the status of the pandemic.

Here is what some of the supervision agencies that remain open in Perth are doing:

Anglicare WA

Anglicare WA have indicated that where appropriate (depending on each individual case), they will offer appointments via phone or video.

They have otherwise implemented the following measures (as advertised on their website):

  1. Individuals are to advise if they have been overseas in the past 14 days or have any flu like symptoms – if this is the case, the service will be suspended.
  2. Handovers and supported visits will become self managed (where this is deemed safe).
  3. No new clients are to be scheduled for visits without discussion with the Manager.
  4. Transactions are to occur by EFTPOS, not cash.
  5. Coordinators are to make contact with clients and perform a risk assessment, checking they haven’t been overseas or in contact with a person who is either self-isolating or has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  6. Coordinators are to review families and those that are ready to exit the service (based on a risk assessment) will be encouraged to move to self- managed contact.

Building Bridges WA

Building Bridges WA have indicated that visits and handovers are still being offered but in isolated areas or at the residences of parents. Further, social distancing rules with extra focus on hygiene are being implemented.

This service has recommenced accepting new client referrals.

Adeona – Children’s Contact Service

Adeona continues to offer supervised visits pursuant to parenting arrangements or court orders.

However, the service has limited meeting locations for supervised visits and has prohibited third parties from attending.

Wherever possible, the faculty will ensure that supervisors keep a safe distance of at least 1.5 meters from all parties.

Safe Balance WA

Safe Balance have indicated that given the ease of restrictions in Western Australia, the facility is now offering supervised contact services at parents residences (should they agree to this).

This is a transition from previous arrangements where supervised contact services were only taking place from their Warwick and Mandurah contact centres.

Safe Balance WA is not currently offering supervised contact services at parks or public places.

The Interplay between Supervision Agencies and Parenting Orders/Parenting Plans

In most circumstances, supervision agencies are implemented by way of order from the Family Court, when deemed appropriate. Parents can also choose to utilise these services by agreement.

Given the purpose of supervision agencies is to minimise a child’s exposure to conflict or unsafe situations, it not always appropriate that alternative arrangements (such as foregoing supervised handovers or implementing virtual handovers) are made.

As both State and Federal governments continue to monitor the situation, we expect these arrangements will be subject to change, particularly with the easing of restrictions. If the situation with contact centres changes, we will update our information.

If you know someone who engages with a supervision agency, is considering the need for one or someone who just wants some clear and direct parenting advice, refer them to one of the team at Carr & Co.