Monday, 13 December 2010

Child Contact at Christmas

14 December 2010


This Christmas, more than 750,000 children in the UK will not have any contact at all with one of their birth parents – not even a card. A new website,, launches next week to help parents, grandparents and birth parents find responsible, valuable advice and guidance on how to make contact with their loved ones.

According to new ONS figures, there are 1,768,000 lone parent households with an average of 1.85 children per household, in the UK. An Omnibus survey revealed that of the children who are living without one of their parents, 23 per cent have no contact with them at all. That’s a staggering 752,284 children in the UK today, who have no contact at all with an absent parent.

With remarriages and co-habitation clouding the figures, court-appointed Children’s Guardian and co-founder of, Kenn Griffiths, fears the real figure could be more than 1.5 million. “Everyone knows someone who has been affected by child contact issues. For both child and parent, losing contact can be emotionally devastating, and it can be an incredibly difficult, time-consuming and expensive problem to resolve. In my role, working with parents and children, I could see that they desperately needed an online resource that could provide them with somewhere to turn and a chance to be heard,” claimed Kenn. is a free resource for adults looking to resolve access issues. The forum provides an open discussion area for issues with legislation, the role of social services and the courts, societal bias and the opportunity to share experiences. A virtual postbox and services directory helps direct parents towards the best support and advice.

The unique Life Story Legacy service gives parents who have been denied access the chance to leave a record of their life, information relevant to their child or their side of the story, in a secure vault protected by Iron Mountain, for release when their child reaches 18 or 21.

Founder Kenn Griifiths said: “ is a vital resource for the thousands of parents and family members in the UK who are unable to make contact with their children. The pain, heartache and potential repercussions for parents and children denied access to each other is vast. Legal aid budgets are being cut in this time of austerity, and social services are looking for cost-cutting solutions to child contact issues, so it’s essential that we lobby government on behalf of mothers, fathers and grandparents to make the system fairer for all.” is backing World Child Contact Day on 20 March 2011, which has been set up to highlight the plight of the millions of families who are torn apart by access, custody and contact issues around the world. Fronted by Kenn Griffiths, the campaign will promote the right and wrong ways to make contact, highlight the dangers of using social networks to make contact and examine high profile cases of abduction or murder.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Children must be protected from Cafcass

The leading Professional Association for Children’s Guardians and Family Court Advisors NAGALRO have spoken out about the failings of Cafcass.

NAGALRO’s Chair Ann Hague, reflecting on a Government report early in November said “we agree with the Public Accounts Committee that Cafcass is unfit for purpose. Cafcass has consistently failed to deliver the service the law requires for children. Its very expensive management has failed over a long period to provide the timely service that that vulnerable children need.”

Cafcass management have stated that they have “greatly reduced” their waiting lists and have still maintained strong safeguarding for vulnerable children. Their practitioners give a different account explaining to me in recent conversations that they have been forced to conduct much of their work on the telephone. Children have not been seen or properly assessed. The service has adopted a ‘watching brief’ model that takes no account of the need for continuity in the case, leaving children without adequate protection at a time of crisis in their lives.

Children and Family solicitors I’ve interviewed who are regularly appointed by Cafcass’s Children’s Guardians are well aware of the danger to children. Unfortunately many of these lawyers rely on their ‘friendship’ with Cafcass for their day-to-day work and collude with this failing service. Those having the strength to stand up for the rights of children can be left ‘out-in-the-cold’, effectively gagged by powerful paymasters.

“It is the best interests of children that is the paramount consideration here, not the best interests of Cafcass the organisation. Children’s voices are being silenced by the very agency that should be listening to them and ensuring that the court knows what is happening to them. Above all we must preserve the important role that protects children, even if we have to create a new way of delivering it.”

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Family Court Experts and Emotional Abuse

Professionals v Experts

On Thursday 11th November 2010 The Times journalist Camilla Cavendish commented on the use of ‘experts’ in Children Act proceedings. She made the point that some experts do not spend enough time with the parties to make a full and proper assessment. I can’t disagree with this but in my experience it is not only ‘some experts’ but many professionals around the case that don’t spend enough time to draw together a good qualified report. Local Authority reports, which are used as the starting point of proceedings often lack clarity, are ill-prepared, follow a template format and are rarely compiled with a thorough investigation of the facts.

Although I have concerns about the effectiveness of CAFCASS and their management, having worked for them I do believe that they are often used too late in proceedings. Many Family Court Advisors are former Local Authority social workers working in the same Geographical areas that they have worked in for years and as such ‘play the professional game’, failing to challenge their former social work colleagues who have prepared very poor early social work assessments.

Judges rely too much on the belief that those preparing and placing reports before them have actually taken the time to investigate the background to cases and form an opinion that is best for the children. Lawyers working in Children and Family proceedings know that the reports supplied by the ‘professionals’ are flawed and so for the sake of their client they ask for Expert Opinion. This comes late in the proceedings and there is a rush to get the case through the system in the time allowed. Experts who challenge the Local Authority regularly can be seen as a problem for them and they often refuse to have a particular expert allocated, agreeing to one that they do not see as challenging or problematic. For the sake of expediency and good relations ‘on the court steps’ agreements between the professionals and lawyers as to who they will accept means that the expert will be someone who will not ‘rock the boat’ and therefore, in my opinion will not properly investigate and assess in a robust and totally unbiased way.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Baby Peter Report

The news that every agency is to blame for Baby Peter’s death leads me to ask a simple question. Where was the lead agency in this case? In every child protection case, one agency should take responsibility for sharing information effectively between all agencies, and it’s usually the local authority. Without communication and coordination, social workers are unlikely to gain access at the right time, or find themselves on the front line, without the knowledge they need.

I’m sure that every frontline member of staff, from the police to the social worker, who came into contact with Baby Peter, knows that more could have been done. But how can one person make up for the lack of communication that has plagued this case? I believe strongly that the local authority should have been responsible and that without their leadership, it was impossible to protect Baby Peter.

Working alone, many social workers knock on a door and fear for their own safety when the door is answered. No-one takes on this type of work without a strong personal motivation to help others, but even this can be superseded if a social worker is faced with danger and threats to their personal safety. Often the fear takes over and they can fail to challenge the family of the child effectively enough. Is this the right atmosphere in which to make profound and emotive decisions about a child’s welfare?

It’s clear that changes are needed. A central place for this sensitive information to be stored, shared and accessed is essential, and the Government urgently needs to find an effective solution. Social workers should no longer be handling these cases alone – it should be standard practice for two people to work on a case, providing the support they need to make the most appropriate judgements in these difficult, disturbing and challenging cases.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Violent Videos and Children

Tomorrow morning on BBC Radio Stoke at 8 am I will be talking about the possible effects violent computer games may have on children's development and perception. In the recent past I have worked on several cases and murders where children have used stamping on the head as part of the attack. Many of the games I've seen have used this technique and I honestly believe that many kids don't see the actual damage and danger of assault. You've only got to look at the mobile phone videos of children using violence and then thinking that it is acceptable to allow the world to view the bullying of vulnerable kids.

Why not listen in tomorrow or better still let me know what your thoughts are.

Email me on

Monday, 20 September 2010

About Us

My Child is the practice based arm of Spring
Garden Consultancy Limited.

Established in 1994 as part of Select Associates International Investigators Spring Garden consultancy’s role was to deliver specialised children and family based investigations and follow up therapy and training to individuals and organisations experiencing dysfunction and organisational disorder. Our dynamic and challenging solution focussed approach has been widely acclaimed as one of the most successful problem solving, trouble shooting models in use today. We have a flexible and imaginative approach that can be specifically tailored to address the issues needed to bring about positive outcomes.

There is no exact shape to our work; it will be slightly different every time. The success relies on this ‘change of shape’ approach which underpins the whole of our team’s work.

Our director, Kenneth J Griffiths has 27 years experience as a Children and Families Social Worker. Qualified in Dispute Resolution, he has investigated and been involved in many child abduction cases. He has acted as expert witness on numerous occasions and has been used by the Children and Family Court Advisory And Support Service (CAFCASS) in Staffordshire and by their Difficult Contact Section in London.

As a Solution Focussed Therapist Kenn’s vision permeates the whole of Spring Garden Consultancy’s practice and policies. Trained by Europe’s leading therapy training organisation ‘BRIEF Therapy Practice’, he uses his unique skills to bring about positive change in a wide variety of situations with individuals, families, businesses and private and public organisations.

He is regularly called upon to work with families who are experiencing difficult and delicate contact problems both as a contact supervisor and independent social worker.

Ken was one of the original members of the initiative which led to the formation of Staffordshire County Council’s Intermediate Treatment Programme for Young Offenders. He served on Stoke on Trent’s Juvenile Liaison Panel, a multi agency group involving Staffordshire Probation, Education, Social Services and the Police. He was instrumental in the formation of the Staffordshire Court Diversion Scheme, another multi agency approach to adolescent crime. Ken has also been involved with Child Protection Investigations co-ordinating Health Authority, Police, Social Services and Housing colleagues in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and North Humberside. As a Guardian-ad-Litem he has been involved in a number of court cases involving multi agency co-ordination.

In 2001 Ken worked closely with Carmarthenshire County Council and other agencies to form and write their Policy and Procedures for Anti-Social Behaviour Problem Solving Groups. He has trained and helped to set up a Mediation Service in the Merthyr Tydfil area.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

10 Tips for Parents

1. When your child wants to show you something, stop what you are doing and pay
attention to your child. It is important to spend frequent, small amounts of time
with your child doing things that you both enjoy.
2. Give your child lots of physical affection – children often like hugs, cuddles, and
holding hands.
3. Talk to your child about things he/she is interested in and share aspects of your
day with your child.
4. Give your child lots of descriptive praise when they do something that you would
like to see more of, e.g., “Thank you for doing what I asked straight away”.
5. Children are more likely to misbehave when they are bored so provide lots of
engaging indoor and outdoor activities for your child, e.g., playdough, colouring
in, cardboard boxes, dress ups, cubby houses, etc.
6. Teach your child new skills by first showing the skill yourself, then giving your
child opportunities to learn the new skill. For example, speak politely to each
other in the home. Then, prompt your child to speak politely (e.g., say “please”
or “thank you”), and praise your child for their efforts.
7. Set clear limits on your child’s behaviour. Sit down and have a family discussion
on the rules in the home. Let your child know what the consequences will be if
they break the rules.
8. If your child misbehaves, stay calm and give them a clear instruction to stop
misbehaving and tell them what you would like them to do instead (e.g., “Stop
fighting; play nicely with each other.” Praise your child if they stop. If they do not
stop, follow through with an appropriate consequence.
9. Have realistic expectations. All children misbehave at times and it is inevitable
that you will have some discipline hassles. Trying to be the perfect parent can set
you up for frustration and disappointment.
10. Look after yourself. It is difficult to be a calm, relaxed parent if you are stressed,
anxious, or depressed. Try to find time every week to let yourself unwind or do
something that you enjoy.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Kids Want Grandparents


It was six months ago that Pauline contacted me to tell me that she feared for her five year old granddaughter’s safety.

The story was very familiar to me. I’ve heard many similar ones over the years. The essence of this one was that this guy, in a previous relationship some years ago, had been investigated by the police and social services following allegations of child sexual abuse against his then partner’s little girl. The case was taken to Court and on the day, the child’s mother lied to cover up the abuse in an effort to ‘keep her man’! He walked free.

Now, he’s moved in with Pauline’s granddaughter. She’s tried to talk to her daughter about her concerns but has been told that she’s a ‘busy body’ and doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

During my initial investigation I spoke to the abused girl’s extended family. A maternal uncle confirmed the original alleged abuse, telling me that following the disclosure his niece moved to live with him and told him the full story. He was in no doubt that the abuse took place. He even confirmed that he knew his sister had lied but could do nothing about it at the time. He was still in touch with his, now twenty year old, niece but told me that she would not talk about her past to anyone. He was right: she would not engage with me or help in my investigation.

I felt I had enough evidence to get the police to look at the case again and contacted the local child protection team. A male officer contacted grandmother by telephone telling her that if she wanted to make a complaint then her granddaughter would be taken to the local hospital and have to be subjected to a physical examination of her ‘private parts’. Grandmother asked the officer to visit her at home so that she could talk about her concerns. The police officer refused to attend. The police did nothing more.

Originally grandma was enjoying weekly contact with her granddaughter. Now, contact has been stopped by her daughter and her partner. The child is desperate to see her grandma and is showing signs of genuine distress. Grandmother now wishes she had kept her concerns to herself. At least then she would be able to keep an eye on her granddaughter’s safety.

What I’ve put in place now is for grandmother to apply for a contact order through the court, thereby forcing a full investigation by way of a report!


Children who experience family breakdown have more positive outcomes when they can turn to grandparents for support according to the findings of a report commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Wellbeing Evidence Review stresses that the government fully support stable parental relationships but realise that many thousands of children are subject to the stresses of parental separation.

It comes as no surprise that the study’s findings show that there is a higher probability of children experiencing parental separation now than at any time in the history of families.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Drinking Mum's Harm Kids


Relationship break down doesn’t happen overnight it is usually the result of a long unhappy period that quite often includes the months of pregnancy.

Increasingly, especially in Western society, relief from life’s stress comes from drowning the sorrows with alcohol. It doesn’t work of course but that’s beside the point. People think it does and so the self abuse of copious amounts of wine, sprits and beers will continue.

Although many pregnant women give up drinking many more don’t. They try to cut down but then the need to ‘feel better’ about their lot in life drives them back to alcohol.

In many parts of the world authorities are tackling what they believe
Is one of the main reasons for the increase in children being born with learning difficulties, hyperactivity, poor memory and speech difficulties. These difficulties are collectively referred to as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). According to The National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome – UK, this is such a well recognised condition in the rest of the world that there are over 250,000 existing websites on the subject. (if you are searching you will need to use the international spelling of ‘Fetal’).



• Alcohol can cause more damage to an unborn baby than any other drug.
• FAS is one of the leading known causes of mental retardation.
• FAS can cause serious lifelong social and behavioural problems.
• FAS and alcohol related birth defects are 100% preventable if no alcohol is consumed during pregnancy.
• There is no safe level of alcohol during pregnancy.


If you have any specific concerns do get in touch with our experts
Email :
Helpline: Freephone 0800 0283163

The National Organisation for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome –UK
Helpline: 0870 0333 700

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Mum Riggi Kills Children


Luca, Austin and Cecilia Riggi have apparently been murdered by their 46 year old mother Theresa.

What state of mind must she have been in to have taken the precious lives of her birth children?

First reports indicate a marital and child custody dispute. Of course, unfortunately these tragic deaths are not the first. At the time of the Moat killings, in the village of Holbrook Derbyshire Dad Andrew Cairns stabbed to death his partner Rachel Slack and their 23 month old son Auden (see blogspot earlier report of 4th June 2010).

There are many similar reports and it seems as though violence is becoming the norm to solve child custody disputes.

All this comes at a time when the Government is responding to a Family Justice System under enormous strain by:

• Capping the fees Independent Social Workers thereby undermining the important role ISW’s have in ensuring that children and families can have a independent professional voice to challenge finance driven Local Authority Social Care workers
• And secondly, causing the loss of almost half of the Family Law firms because of the Legal Aid Commission’s decision not to award them new contracts, in an effort to cut costs.

Without doubt, these decisions will seriously affect the welfare and safety of vulnerable children and disadvantaged families.

At we are actively seeking the appointment of a Minister with sole responsibility for Child Contact, Access and Custody and challenging poor decision making. You can help in this by letting your MP know the serious consequences of the Government’s actions.

On our Spring Garden Consultancy web site and on our CEO’s own site we have a letter that you can down load and send to your MP.

MP’s Name Here
House of Commons


Reduction in Family Law Firms Offering Legal Aid And Reducing the Fees of Independent Social Workers.

Almost half of the firms currently offering Family Law work across the country have been refused legal aid contracts. This work involves some of the most vulnerable children and families in our society.

In defence of these decisions the Legal Services Commission say that they have awarded contracts on the basis of quality, however, in reality many experienced solicitors have not been awarded contracts and contracts have been awarded to firms with very little experience.

Cases most hit by the loss of so many Family Law Firms involve contested contact, access custody and residence issues, removal of children from their parents, adoptions, and incidents of domestic violence.

In many of these cases Children and Family, Judges and Magistrates need an independent professional social work assessment. Cutting the fees of Independent Social Workers force experienced and professional workers out of the vitally independent role.

I would ask that you raise these issues with the Minister and suggest an urgent review of the situation.

Yours faithfully,


Remember to include your address/contact details, to show that you live in the constituency

Monday, 2 August 2010


SARAH’S LAW can help with positive Child contact and access.

From today the Home Secretary Theresa May is extending the availability of Sarah’s Law Scheme to 24 police force areas across the Country. This is in response to a positive outcome from a recent pilot scheme and the continuing pressure from Sara Payne, the mother of year old Sarah who was murdered in July 2000 by convicted paedophile Roy Whiting.

Quite often in child contact and access cases a staying parent will take up with a new partner with very little knowledge of the new step-parent’s background.

Absent parents are usually the last to know and historically have not had the right to check on the suitability of anyone with regular contact to their children. Sarah’s Law changes this by giving the parent the right to check with police if anyone with regular, unsupervised contact / access to their child has a criminal conviction for child sex offences.

Even as a Court appointed CAFCASS worker I could not have these checks carried out without the written consent of the new partner and this led to delays in proceedings and undermined the possible positive working together of the family.

Another positive outcome is the ability for the police to warn parents if concerns are raised by neighbours or family members such as grandparents.

The pilot scheme was rolled out to police forces in Cambridge, Cleveland, Hampshire and Warwickshire in 2008. Today’s announcement will see this being expanded to the Cheshire, Dorset, Durham, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northumbria and Wiltshire force areas.

The Chief Constable of West Mercia Paul West endorsed the objective, in a recent statement…

”These new arrangements are a major development in safeguarding children. They empower members of the public to initiate action aimed at protecting children and will help to increase public confidence in the police and other responsible authorities as part of their role in monitoring sex offenders.”

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Facebook adoption


I’m a private investigator regularly asked to locate adopted children. I am a former adoption officer with a large local authority and I have an adopted daughter.

I can see the attraction for anyone involved in contact and adoption issues of using Facebook and other social networking sites to get in touch with their lost loved ones.

However, unsolicited and unmanaged contact is probably the most damaging way to bring about a positive outcome for all concerned.

I fully understand the need to make contact. I can see how the adults may believe that their child is distressed and lonely, especially when they are airing their views on social websites.

Most teenagers will go through a difficult time, but for the adopted, adolescents can be a very traumatic and challenging time. Putting their thoughts and feelings on the web’s pages can be likened to a page of their personal diary. Quite often they do not see the dangers of other people reading and internalising what they think are problems solely due to adoption, when in fact they are emotional ‘growing pains’.

Before reading too much into the writings think about your own transition to adulthood. Remember how traumatic that was! Did you want any adults involved with you at that time? I think not! Your friends were the ones you wanted around you. It’s the same on social websites kids want kids, not relatives, especially relatives they don’t know. Absent parents turning up ‘out of the blue’ is a recipe for disaster.

In every case that I investigated I made it known at the outset that if I did locate the child or absent parents, I would let them know that I’d located them but would not divulge their whereabouts unless they wanted to me to. Even then I built in a cooling off period. Once the decision had been made to meet up I then set about counselling everyone involved not least the adopting parents who quite often were the most threatened and vulnerable.

None of this can happen on a social network. This is dangerous and potentially damaging ground that should not be trodden without a well equipped, qualified professional.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Children need grandparents


Children who experience family breakdown have more positive outcomes when they can turn to grandparents for support according to the findings of a report commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

The impact of Family Breakdown on Children’s Wellbeing Evidence Review stresses that the government fully support stable parental relationships but realise that many thousands of children are subject to the stresses of parental separation.

It comes as no surprise that the study’s findings show that there is a higher probability of children experiencing parental separation now than at any time in the history of families.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Kids Need Dads ?

New Fathers 4 Justice staged a demonstrartion outside the home of Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly over the weekend as part of their quest to gain better recognition for fathers trying to get contact to their children.

Dressed in a superhero costume the self appointed spokesman 'Captain Equality' is reported to have threatened the MP with an escalation of the protest "if he fobs us off we will come back and it will not be so humerous next time".

I'm not at all sure that threats of this nature actually help the real issues around father's access to their children.

Over the years I've worked on hundreds of cases involving difficult contact issues. The majority have been father based but not exclusively. I could argue for a Mother's 4 Justice, Grandparents' 4 Justice, Siblings 4 justice, and Parents 4 Justice. All of these have difficult contact issues. The Courts are full to bursting with child contact work.

My honest experieince is that all the professionals involved in child contact do take account of the difficulties for fathers. I don't believe that making veiled threats is a good, constructive ploy. In my opinion all this does is highlight the often misguided belief that the male of the species is angry and violent.

If you think I'm wrong then please feel free to comment

Friday, 4 June 2010

Dad kills his 23 month baby!!!

With the events in Cumbria taking centre stage in the media circus it's easy to miss the tragic events in Derbyshire's Hobrook Village.

According to early investigations a 44 year old father stabbed to death his 38 year old partner and mother of their 23 month old boy. The toddler was also stabbed and died later in hospital.

Apparently the father was arrested last week following a series of death threats aimed at his former partner. As is often the case, he was not detained and went on to carry out his threats in the most horrific way.

Family disputes, especially involving children, bring out the very worse in people. Death threats are regularly dished out. Thankfully very few people carry these out. That's not to say that they do not terrorise the recipient, they do. Living in fear both for yourself and your children has to be torture.

One of the areas that we want to look into at is to help emotionally charged parents to handle their hurt in a more constructive way. I'm sure that everyone has felt the overwhelming sensation that starts in the pit of the stomach and erupts out of every muscle in the body. It is a horrible time and one that causes many people to act in away that they do not like but find hard to stop. Threats and acts of violence spill out, often in full view of the children, sometimes aimed at them.

If you are struggling with your emotions don't bottle them up, talk about your feelings. If you can't talk then write them down. Try to find ways of controlling your anger and hurt. We're here to listen to your story and help if we can. Take a look at our earlier blogs, there you'll find help and guidance or email us with your problems to

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Abducted Children

Since 1983 I have been involved in the detection and repatriation of hundreds of distressed children.

Parents and family members can be the most damaging of people a child can come into contact with. I've witnessed babies being held over multi story buildings held from certain death by the strand of a nappy. I've stood back whilst the abductor has screamed and shouted abuse at the child taking out the anger they feel for the absent parent the authorities, and me. They have no concept of the life long damage they are causing. On other occasions I have spent hours talking to a parent holding a child hostage amazed at the cold calm way they justify their 'right' to put the child through a life changing ordeal.

I've been lucky. To date I've not had any case that went to the wire. In the majority of incidents I have managed to negotiate and come away with the child. On the occasional ones where I've not felt it appropriate to force the return I've ensured the child's safety and returned at a later time to bring the matter to a successful conclusion.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Missing Children

Every year in America an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing. That's more than 15,000 children each day. In the UK 100,000 go missing and that's nearly 2,000 a day!

Many of these children will be found in a relatively short time. But for some, they will never be found. Their parents continue their life in hope and despair.For them there is no closure.

As an investigator and family social worker I have been involved in many investigations and managed to put parents and children back together. Some though, I've not found and know only too well how the uncertainty eats away at the very root of even the most stable family relationships.

Here at we have an initiative that allows parents and family members the opportunity to leave a Life Story Legacy, a diary that is stored for posterity. The hope is that one day a missing child or their future family will access our records and know their true family history.

For more information check out

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Dad Fights for Son's Contact

MG from Somalia has been trying to get contact to his son for the past two years. He says his former partner 'allowed' him to see his son occasionally but he has had to 'beg' and contact was often stopped moments before it was arranged to take place.

Sound familiar?

We encouraged him to take the matter to Court for a Contact Order....

Mum has made allegations of domestic violence, denied by Dad. The Court has asked for reports following a recent Hearing.

He asks....

Q "How long will it take to get the next hearing after ive just had the first one yesterday?"

A The next Hearing will be determined by several factors the main ones being... The time it takes to get the reports needed. Although the protocol sets out the times that are often stretched because of the difficulties in getting the reports completed. Another factor is the Court listings. Quite often the Court has a lot of cases and have to fit your case in. Once again, the Court has to take account of the protocols, (they are different in private law than public law). You should have had a new Hearing date fixed when you were last in Court.

Q "police said there is no allegations made on my name as they have checked in their database system and there was nothing on me, mind you i only went to ----- police in ------------ where we used to live so will this database record show just anything that happened in ----- or is it the whole country database?"

A The Police National Computer check should have all details of any arrests etc. The local Police should have checked on this. You have said that you have never been in trouble with the Police so when the reports are completed this should be dealt with.

Q "I am gonna be on supervised contact visit at a contact centre in ------, how long will this supervised visit last because eventually i would love to have my son having fortnight staying contact with me like previously requested?"

A You tell me that the order made states that contact will happen at the contact centre every 2 weeks for 2 hours. This should be until your next hearing. I would expect that whoever is supervising you will be responsible for reporting their findings. The Court will take all this into account when your case is properly heard. It is not good to keep long term contact at a centre so the reporter should look at this for you.

Q "how does it work in contact centre? are they gonna be watching every move how i interact with my son?"

A If your order says supervised then this is exactly what it means. You are being supervised and as such you will be watched and your behaviour monitored along with your son's reaction to contact.

Monday, 12 April 2010


What you have is priceless. Don't underestimate your worth. Your knowledge is unique to you and whether you like it or not, good or bad it all belongs solely to you. You make your decisions in this knowledge, it affects your every day thoughts and events.

Understand that no matter what, there are no negatives in there it's all positive if you use the knowledge you've gained to good effect it is absolutely PRICELESS.

Let's say that you are in a relationship that you are not enjoying. Why are you still there? The answer may well be that you are hoping something will change to make it 'better'. Or you just don't feel that you have the strength to move away from it.

Your reasons for staying are unique to you. Inside, you know the real reasons. To come to the reasons you have used your knowledge. It is this that determines how you cope. It may be that you have reflected on your past and that you have the knowledge that you have done something in the past that you regret and that you are blaming yourself for. Reflect again on this and use your knowledge to inform you, not destroy you. Maybe you should have moved out of the relationship years ago but you did not. Don't dwell on this. It may be that you are feeling guilty for thoughts or things you have done that you consider are wrong. By all means reflect on your past but accept that we all do things that we regret, it's a part of learning. What you don't want to do is to continue to do something that you know is wrong. Don't try to appease everyone else, you can't win them all, so don't try to, accept that some people will not understand and accept your position. That is a matter for them, not you. Keeping a failing relationship alive because you are trying to please others is not a positive way forward. It leads to uncertainty. Being vague about what you really mean, to try to lessen the impact of the relationship's end, is more damaging that a clean break. Vagueness leads to unhelpful responses from those around you.

Ending a relationship cleanly and quickly may be brutal in the short term but spending months trying to wean someone off you is down right abusive!

Using your knowledge to define your problem will help you to come to a positive conclusion.

When people are unclear about what they want to change, attempts at finding solutions are often misguided. This can lead to frustration especially when nothing seems to be improving. If you are unsure about the exact nature of your problem take the time to trawl your knowledge and find the reasons behind your needs then act on them.



Monday, 5 April 2010



It’s no good spending valuable healing time torturing yourself by going over your past life events. No matter what, you can not change them. They are what makes you good or bad!

Settling your soul starts with the acceptance that you can not change the past. Using your knowledge and experience to shape your future is what you should spend time thinking about. No one knows the core you better than you. Quite often psychologists, counsellors and social workers come into people’s lives, get them to talk about their past and analyse the information, giving it back to them in a very identifiable form. The person being ‘helped’ thinks wow, how fantastic and they have a feeling of relief. Months later that feeling goes and the question arises, ‘ok you’ve identified why I am like I am but nothing has happened since then. When are you going to make me feel better?’ Using a solution focussed approach to your problem gives you a way forward by encouraging you to think about how to shape the future not dwell in the past.

Settling your soul is best tackled by accepting who you are and understanding that you made past decisions with the knowledge you had then and that now your knowledge is different and that given the situation again you would not react in the same way.

We all have a past history, we all have negative experiences; we all develop differently. What we have to understand is that we are a product of our past. The way we deal with that past makes the difference. We can let past negative influences make us negative, or we can use the experience to adjust ourselves to a positive reaction and we can use the information to alter our environment to a positive place. Being subjected to many life negatives does not mean that you can’t change them. But it does mean that you have to make greater efforts to change your mindset to feel better about yourself and to find the positives.

Settling your soul means accepting your past and your self. Coming from a ‘difficult’ background does not mean that you are destined for a difficult future. In fact if you think about it, if your life experience to date has been difficult, then you should be able to use all of that understanding to make a better future.




Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Child Behaviour 5 Top Tips


It has been said that children are born with a brain that is nothing more than a ball of confusion, and that what the child experiences, especially in their early years, shapes and organises there thoughts, beliefs and behaviour.

Children are not born with behaviour they learn it! From you!!!

Basically, behaviour can be put into two categories, acceptable and un-acceptable. Parents need to know how to respond to and deal with both in equal measure. Showing children how happy they make you feel when they are operating in an acceptable way helps to build their self-esteem and lets them know what is expected of them. Responding to their un-acceptable behaviour should be done in a way that shows them that what they are doing will not get them what they want, which is, a happy you. What you must not do, is to become angry and upset with them when they are learning life’s lessons. You need to be understanding of them and guide them.

Smacking and shouting means that you have gone past the stage of positive child development. You have ‘lost it’.

Being consistent is the key. From the very beginning of their life with you, you should continually spend time with them. The more the better. It is easy to miss the need to constantly show them how happy you are when they are acting in an acceptable way.

Because they are not causing you any problems there is a tendency to leave them alone. Wrong! You need to show them even more attention. If you don’t, they will quickly learn that the best way to get your attention is to act in an un-acceptable way.

“Children’s behaviour sometimes requires more serious attention. But, that doesn’t have to include actions that are hurtful, such as hitting, humiliating or yelling. Effective discipline only has to give children the message that their behaviour was a problem. If a negative consequence is used, it should be so light that it can be used several times a day without causing harm.” (Off Road Parenting, Pacifici Chamberlain and White)


· Be consistent with your approach
· Keep talking to your child especially when they are being good
· Don’t wait until the behaviour deteriorates to the point that you become angry
· Use your body language to show approval. Smile, show them you are happy
· Spend lots of time with them and enjoy them

Sunday, 21 March 2010


The difficulty with life’s problems is that they tend to occupy massive parts of your mind. When you are ‘troubled’ the more you try to put the problem out of your mind the more it seems to be in your thoughts. If you have lots of life problems, as many of us do, they take over and our mind keeps throwing them at us one after the other. This state in meditation terms is often referred to as the ‘monkey brain’. I think it’s a really good description of the overwhelming way our minds function. The difficulty with the monkey brain syndrome is that it bombards us with negative thoughts and takes up so much of our mind that we can not access our logic and positive thoughts to make good quality decisions.

The answer is to learn to relax the mind especially when we are stressed. Easier said than done I know. But remember this:


By this I mean that we are capable of changing the way we deal with our self! We have the ability to cognitively change the responses we use in any situation. For example, if your response to a naughty child is to become angry and shout, which is clearly not a rational response as it does neither them nor you any real good, you can develop another way of dealing with the situation by the use of a positive reaction that allows you to turn your anger into a positive thought process that lets you deal with the child in a much more constructive and less threatening way.

No one can effectively deal with every problem to their satisfaction. There will always be times when you wish you had reacted differently. Accept this and you will avoid one of the most destructive unresolved problem responses… The ‘volcano effect’ as I call it. This is the effect that can happen when you do not deal with any of your problems. The effect is a build up of volcanic, emotional, energy. The stuff that makes your stomach tighten. Allowing this to build in you without airing it causes a build up of pressure that sooner or later will erupt. The problem is, the final straw will probably be something very simple. Those around you will wonder why on earth you have reacted so violently. What they won’t know is the enormity of the pressure you have built up over a period of time that they have not been aware of.

The way to avoid this is to reduce the pressure regularly and in a controlled way. Opening up and letting people know how you feel can help. Doing this gives you the opportunity to relax the stress. If you can’t, then try exercising. You don’t have to take on a marathon or spend hours in the gym. A short walk can do the trick.

Every day take a little time out to think about the things that have caused you anxiety. It may help if you make a list. What you are aiming to do is to release some of the pressure. Meditation can do this. Meditating is a simple process. You don’t have to sit cross legged on the side of a mountain. Sitting on a chair, keeping an upright posture with a straight back and slowly breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth will do. The idea is to allow your mind to relax. To think of nothing in particular and allow your mind to move from the monkey brain state to a more relaxed state. Thoughts will come into your head. Don’t tell yourself to relax, it rarely works. Better if you allow the thoughts to drift in and drift back out again, as a wave on a beach. Try not to focus on any one thought. Listening to soothing music, or just the sound of your breath entering and leaving your body helps you to lose the drifting thoughts and puts you back into a meditative state. At first you may only manage a few minutes of ‘no thought’, but in time you will have longer spells. Regular meditation, even for five minutes a day will soon become something that you will look forward to and benefit from.



Sunday, 14 March 2010

Deal With Unresolved Issues

by Kenn Griffiths.

All of us at some time or other have had times in our lives when we have not dealt with some difficulty that has arisen. By dealing with it I mean that we have not addressed it emotionally. It has been left unresolved and every now and then it comes to the forefront and evokes a negative emotional response, a inner hurt. For some people there are many of these unresolved issues that sap emotional energy and have the effect of stopping them moving on, effectively keeping them a prisoner with them as the gaoler.

The starting point to change is this: YOU CAN NOT CHANGE THE PAST, what’s gone is gone, you now have to live with the effects. What you can change is the perception you have about the past and it’s effects. If you only view it as a negative it will cause a negative in you. But if you can use the experience, no matter how bad, in a positive way then you move yourself from negative to positive. Using life’s difficulties positively means using the experience to make you a better person. A person that you can live with, a person that you like! No matter what the problem you will not be able to move forward effectively without ridding yourself of your self imposed gaol. That place that you keep yourself in, the place that stops you from enjoying your future.

Try this, imagine that you have a magic wand, and when you wave it your unresolved problem is now resolved. Ask yourself, “what would my life look like if I resolved this problem”. Well, what does it look like? How do you think you would feel? What would you do now you have rid yourself of the burden? Would other people know something was different about you? How would they know? What would you do that signalled to them that you were different?

In reality you can not remove the past but you can resolve your issues about it by dealing with you!

Now try this.

Let’s say that your issue is absolutely unresolved, it has never been viewed in any form of positive light and you can not live with it. On a scale of 0 to 10 this is ZERO. Now at the other end of the scale you have dealt with it in a positive way. This doesn’t mean that it never happened. It has, and you can’t remove the past. However, 10 is ‘resolved’, you can live with it and you have changed the experience from a negative to positive, you’ve used it to help you grow.

Now decide where on the scale you are. Let’s say you are living with the effects, but you do reflect on the issue regularly and it depresses you. The fact that you can think about it moves you from Zero. So you are not there. You have not moved through it so you are not at 10. You are however, wanting to resolve it and work through it. Sometimes you feel a little positive but not for long. You’re probably at 4. Moving forward, what would you have to do to get to 4.5 or even 5? It could be something very simple like telling yourself that you are going to deal with it eventually or simply accepting in yourself that you can not change the past. Whatever it is, is entirely up to you. You know what is needed. No one else has your experience and no one understands you better than you. So when you look to resolve issues you resolve them for you not someone else. Only you know what your preferred outcome should be.

Don’t become a prisoner of your past
Unresolved issues are your gaol
Turn your negatives to positives
Let go of your past, you can’t change it
Don’t suppress problems, deal with them
Dealing with problems gives you experience so that future problems are dealt with more easily


Clarifying Preferred Outcomes.

If you are playing a tune on a trumpet that no one knows how can they join in?
This exercise is to help you to define what is realistic and can be resolved, bringing your from a no tune to a tune everyone knows and can join you in.

Let us say that your problem is that you become angry when you are trying to sort out the children’s contact with their other parent. You would like to be able to handle your anger better and talk about the contact without it becoming a volatile situation. Now make a list briefly describing the problem as you see it and what needs to change.

Next ask yourself how you will know when the problem you are facing is no longer a problem. Then write down your preferred outcome. Be specific using positive language in your writing.

Example: I will know that I am handling my anger better when I am able to talk to the other parent without anger driving my responses.

Use your notes to help you define what your preferred outcome looks like and to give you the direction to move forward.

If you are struggling with any issues and need to talk about them why not take advantage of the expert’s page:



Friday, 12 March 2010

Separated Dads on Mother's Day

What to do when you have contact arranged on Mother’s day is, frankly, to step aside. As I would expect Mum to do on father’s day!

If not then make sure you recognise the day with the kids. Don’t let your hurt get in the way of their need to be involved with the hype surrounding Mother’s day.

As a way of using the day in a positive way why not devote some of the time to making Mum a gift or simply a card. You can buy card blanks from any reputable stationers or from one of the many craft shops. No matter what the age or ability of your children they can be encouraged to put their own thoughts and feelings into the activity. You should be the vehicle for their thoughts not yours.

Doing this type of activity will show the children that you and Mum can be talked about in a safe and positive way.

What you should not do is make the kids choose between their birth Mum and your new partner/wife. She is, at best, their step-mother. Don’t make her out as something other than this. If the kids themselves decide to ‘do something’ for her so be it, but don’t make too much of it and resist throwing it in Mum’s face if they do want to involve the step-parent element.

Likewise if you are Mum, don’t take the kid’s kindness to step-mum as a rebuke of you. You are Mum and no one can take that away from you. However, you can make it difficult for the children to treat you as such if you make it difficult for them to be honest with you. Even though it feels that you are being undermined you won’t be if you keep your own council and talk to your children about their step-mother or Dad’s partner in a positive, light hearted way. Children are innocent for the most part and want to please everyone. As they get older they will decide what is right and what is not. Don’t put them under pressure to make a decision that you want. They need to make an informed decision and to do this in their own time and with unbiased information.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


Monday is Life-style day at with our in residence expert Kenn Griffiths.

Life’s lessons come at a cost and believe me mine have proved to be very expensive over the years. It’s because of this life long learning and my work as a child contact and access consultant that I am now in a position to use my experience and knowledge to offer support to anyone experiencing emotional difficulties.

Losing contact with your children, or the thought of it, can have the effect of bringing you down and testing your confidence and self-esteem. But it does not have to be a negative…

View change as a start, not an ending.
Use the experience to learn from.
Use it to build confidence, not destroy it!

What’s gone on in the past can’t be changed. You may feel regret or disappointment and given the same situation again you would probably do it all differently. But, accept that you are not going to be given the same set of circumstances again. You may be given some similar experiences, but what’s gone, is gone and can’t be re-lived. Accept this now! Don’t keep torturing yourself. Going over the past events in your mind will not change the outcome so learn from it and move yourself forward. By all means use it to enhance you, to develop a ‘better’ you if that’s what you want but don’t dwell in the hurt.

In my work I am often instructed to carry out a parenting assessment and report my findings to the Court. This is usual in child contact disputes. One parent brings allegations against the other in an effort to demonstrate that the accused is an unfit parent and should not be trusted with the care of children. A person’s self-esteem is often a window into the current ability of a parent to offer unconditional love and support to their children. Low self-esteem is an indicator to a parent’s low opinion of themselves. If a parent does not believe that they have any worth they can internalise this and view themselves as a failure. Add to this the trauma of separation, divorce and the possible loss of their children and you can see how they could struggle with the day to day difficulties of being a parent.

Positive parenting is not easy even when everything is going well. Children need a lot of care, love and understanding. They quickly pick up on adult’s moods, and even when very young, they learn how to alter their position to ‘accommodate’ their parent’s difficulties.

Keeping yourself positive and ‘up-beat’ has a settling effect on the children. You owe it to yourself and them to take care of yourself and to have a positive outlook.

Take the time now to gauge your level of self-esteem. The following check list is one that I use in my assessment process.

If you are feeling low why not get in touch with our team of experts at they are there to help and will not be judgemental.

Checklist for self-esteem

Yes No Don’t
Do you feel you can do things as well as most other people?
2 0 1
Are there things you are proud of?
2 0 1
Do you think you are a failure?
2 0 1
Do you feel you are not as good as other people?
2 0 1
In general are you pretty sure of yourself?
2 0 1
Do you often wish you were someone else?
2 0 1
Would you find it difficult to make a speech?
2 0 1
Are there a lot of things about you that you would change if you could?
2 0 1
Do you think you are quite popular with people in general?
2 0 1
Do you have a great deal of confidence in your decisions?
2 0 1
Do you have a good opinion of yourself?
2 0 1
Do you often feel ashamed of things you have done?
2 0 1
Do you feel photographs do not do you justice?
2 0 1
Do you think there are family members who make you feel you are not good enough?
2 0 1
Do you get upset if someone criticises you?
2 0 1
Do you think other people regard you as being useless?
2 0 1
Do you sometimes question your worth/value as a person?
2 0 1
When people say nice things about you do you find it difficult to believe/accept?
2 0 1
Do you sometimes remain silent because you feel people will laugh at what you say?
2 0 1
Are you shy in social situations?
2 0 1
Do you feel you are as good as other people?
2 0 1
Do you feel you can succeed in doing the things you want to?
2 0 1
Are you happy with the way you look
2 0 1
Are you often shy with other people because you think you will be rejected?
2 0 1
Do you find it difficult to do things in a way which other people think is good?
2 0 1
Do you often pretend to be better at things than you really are?
2 0 1
Do you sometimes feel you can never do anything right?
2 0 1
Do you think you are physically attractive?
2 0 1
Do you feel you have a normal amount of respect for yourself?
2 0 1
Do you think your personality is attractive?
2 0 1
(A Practitioner’s Tool for Child Protection and the Assessment of Parents – Jeff Fowler)

If you’ve scored 40 plus you’re ok. Below this and you should start work on building your confidence. If you have a shed load of the neutral indicator 1, and you haven’t read the test wrong, then you either have a lack of co-operation or you just don’t understand yourself. If that’s the case how can anyone else understand you?



Tuesday, 2 March 2010

My Child Contact Child Ripped in Half by Parents


During and following separation and divorce kids need a great deal of love understanding and reassurance from both of their parents. Evidence shows that the majority of children want to continue to see people that matter to them. Pressure from the adults often stops them from feeling comfortable enough to express their true feelings. The best way of ensuring that you are doing everything possible to keep your children safe, well and happy is to make sure that they enjoy good quality contact and that means putting their needs before your own and making sure that they are encouraged to go to contact with their non-resident parent. Encouraged means just that! Simply agreeing to contact taking place is not enough. Children have to be continually reassured and actively helped to attend contact with their absent parent. Contact should be seen as a joyous occasion and not an anxiety filled adult led continuation of the parent’s dispute. All too often children are used as pawns… Contact can happen only if Dad pays his maintenance or Mum jumps through some emotional hoop etc etc. Unbelievable I know, but it happens all the time. One of the most effective ways of ensuring that you get contact right for your sons and daughters is to ask them what they want and to listen to them and then actively alter arrangements to suit their changing needs. This can only be done when both parents cooperate and that includes respecting each others views and opinions. (Something that was probably lacking in the marriage/relationship). Where possible avoid any sudden changes in the contact arrangements. Children need structure and stability. “A survey of 2,000 children aged six to eleven on contact with their fathers’ showed that they saw good contact as being:
· Dads showing interest in their schooling
· Preparing meals
· Watching TV with them
· Playing football
· Reading them stories
· Going shopping together and
· Helping them through bad times
One child called it ‘messing about with dad, another ‘being loved’ by her dad. They did not see contact in terms of getting expensive toys, bikes, computers and holidays, but about having a relationship with and being ‘looked after’ by their parent” Time for Children CAFCASS.
This is exactly what children need and what good contact is really about. Don’t get drawn into the media stereo typical portrayal that parents don’t get contact right. Statistics show that “Only a small minority of parents use the law to sort out contact arrangements. A survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that around 1 in 10 parents had court orders. Between half and 60% agreed contact between themselves and between a fifth and a third had no agreed arrangements (resident and non-resident parent reports differ)” Child Contact With Non-resident Parents University of Oxford Department of Social Policy and Social Work.

Contact doesn’t just happen it has to be planned. Probably the most difficult contact to properly plan is staying contact, be it for one night or longer. Staying contact puts extra pressure on children. They have to adapt to a different household usually with different rules. Parents need to have agreement about routines. It helps if parents can be flexible and have an overall understanding of the difficulties.

Contact goes wrong:
· When children are put at risk
· When members of the family are not committed to contact
· When contact is made a negative arrangement
· When a parent has unreasonable opposition to contact or wants to significantly change the contact arrangements, but not for the child’s good…END

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