Family Time – it’s about relationships

It’s about Relationships

Information to help you understand ways you can connect with your child, including common questions asked by parents and family.

We use the term ‘family time’, sometimes ‘family visit’, to refer to what is often called ‘contact’ (the term in the Act). We believe it is more than seeing your child briefly and not very often and must always be safe.

 

“A supervised visit at a park is better than a supervised visit in a hot room, with toys that are broken… feeling under the microscope” (Parent)

Family time is critical for children and young people to develop their identities and relationships, so it requires more attention and time.

Children and young people need to spend regular time with parents and family throughout their time in care. It should always only be is it is safe to do so. Many parents say they feel unsure about family time and visits with their children, and many find family time very distressing as it is hard to say goodbye and there may be other problems.

If family time with your child is being stopped or reduced, ask the caseworker for reasons as soon as you can. Family time should only be prevented for safety or other very significant reasons.

These are some of the questions and concerns parents have raised:

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I am not sure what I am allowed to do when I see my child. I don't know if I can change his nappy or give him a present.

Visits and time with your child are precious and very important to you and to them. It’s important you know what you can do.

Ask the agency and /or FACS if there are any limits or rules in your contact with your children. If there are limits then ask for the reasons. If you disagree with the reasons you can ask for them to be reviewed.

It is usually OK to do and say most things during your time with your child that you would normally do as a parent.

These include but are

not limited to:

 

Cuddling and kissing your child

Providing direct and personal care such as feeding, nappy changing, and taking your child to the toilet

Telling your child you love them

Bringing healthy snacks and drinks

Bringing them gifts

Bringing toys and games to play with

Taking photos and videos*

If the agency or department (DCJ/FACS) say that you can’t do these things or other normal parenting things, ask for the reasons.

*If you take photos or videos remember that Section 105 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 in New South Wales may stop the publishing of information about your child on social media or in other ways. This includes photos and videos. Ask the caseworker about this if you feel it is important that you are able to publish photos and videos as special permission might be needed.

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My family time and visits with my child are in an agency room and there is always a supervising worker present. Why can't I see my child somewhere more relaxed without a supervisor there?

Many children and families have told us they find contact in agency rooms with a supervising worker confusing and disruptive. Ask the agency or DCJ worker what the supervisor will be doing during the visit and why they are needed. You might not agree with the reasons but it is still important to know what they are.

Unless the court orders, you do not have to have your time with your child supervised or in an office. Unless the court sets rules it is up to the agency or DCJ to make decisions about this and your views are important in deciding this.

Make sure you read and fully understand any court orders and seek legal advice if anything is not clear.

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I find contact with my child very upsetting and distressing. Sometimes it seems easier just to give up and stop seeing them.

This is a very understandable reaction for parents with children in out of home care. You are not alone in feeling this way. Remember that you are important to your child even if it seems like other people don’t value you.

Research has found that regular family time is linked to higher rates of children returning home to their families. It is also linked to better relationships between parents, families and children, even when children stay in care until they are 18. Children and young people who have a close relationship with their parents and family are more likely to grow up stronger and more resilient.

Even if other people do not value your role as a parent or family member you are still very important for your child. Use this website to find support for yourself. You need support just like any parent does. Be kind to yourself.

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I only see my child in-person 4 times a year - does it have to be that way?

Unless the court has made a specific contact order, family time with your child can be increased and changed. Sometimes the court will order a minimum amount of family time – this is just a minimum and is a safeguard to make sure your child gets at least some time with you and family.

Family time should only be reduced if there is evidence that it is bad for your child. If this happens to you ask for the reasons and the evidence.

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The family time arrangements for me and my child need to change. How can I ask for changes to be made?

Firstly you should talk to the caseworker and ensure they know you want to be involved in case planning and in decisions about family time. Parents who have been through the system say it is very important to be involved in case planning for your child. Talk to the caseworker about how you will take part in case planning because that is where lots of decisions are made. Your child should also be involved depending on how old they are.

Be as clear as you can about how you think family time arrangements need to change and put it in writing.

If this doesn’t work then you can ask for an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) process to help you and the agency agree on how family time should look. Ask the caseworker to arrange this. This process may be a meeting where you, the agency and possibly other people try and come to an agreement. When you agree, you can lodge this agreement with the court.

If this doesn’t work seek legal advice. You might be able to apply for a contact order in the court.

You can also follow the complaints ideas we have on our making complaints and managing disputes page.

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Who needs to supervise family time?

Family time can be supervised by agency staff, the caseworker, the carer, by someone else or by no one. The way family time is supervised or not supervised should depend on the needs of your child, and they will change over time. Sometimes it will be decided by the court, so make sure you get to know your court orders. Your views are very important in deciding how family time is supervised and supported.

When parents and carers have positive relationships, family time with kids and parents can become easier and more relaxed for everyone. In our experience family time is more difficult if carers and parents don’t know each other.

If you want to meet and build a relationship with the people looking after your child, speak to the caseworker and tell them you would like them to arrange a meeting.

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What are some ideas to make family time better for my kids and me?

No matter how long your child is in care there are things you can do to make it better. These are some ideas that parents have found helpful. Some of these things you can do without much fuss. Other things you can suggest to the agency and /or DCJ. 

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It is OK to bring gifts but try to keep them simple. What your kids need most is you.

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Be there and be there on time.

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Suggest other ways of having meaningful contact such as using social media, phone calls, texting and emails.

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Suggest to the agency or DCJ that your child join you for important family events such as weddings and birthday parties.

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Plan your time together. Bring activities and games that you know your child will enjoy and which can be played with in the time you have.

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Suggest that you come along to some activities with the carer and your child such as medical appointments, sporting events and school meetings.

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Suggest activities that you and your child will be comfortable with and will enjoy. Activities some parents have shared are swimming, picnics and parks.

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Suggest a regular meeting with the caseworker and the carer to review contact arrangements and make sure things are going as well as possible for you and your child.

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Turn off your phone and other mobile devices if you can unless you are taking photos. Parents say these devices can be very distracting for children and can take up a lot of time.

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Build memories together. Take photos then make sure the photos are shared with your child. You could make a card with the photos and then share these with your child.

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Suggest a communication book with your child’s carer. The carer can give you information to help you make the most of your time together and you can then provide information to the carer about what you did so they can support your child afterwards.

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Pack some healthy snacks such as fruit, sandwiches and water (tap water is fine). Try to avoid sugary snacks and drinks as these may lead to excess energy or even upset tummies.

If you are struggling to make your time with your kids fun and happy, ask the agency or DCJ for practical support. For example, many parents find it hard to pay for activities and transport to do enjoyable things with their kids.

Do you have a question?

If you require some additional direction or support, feel free to send us an email.