The absence of a facility providing safe supervised contact for local families is preventing some children from seeing their parents, a local judge has said.
The comments from the Family Division Registrar of the Royal Court, Advocate Samantha McFadzean, came following an application for direct contact between a father and his two-year-old daughter.
Described in the Registrar's written judgment as having a “a chequered history of alcohol and illegal substance misuse” in common with the child’s mother, the father had only seen “very little” of the young girl.
Following recommendations from an officer of the Jersey Family Court Advisory Service (JFCAS), he sent a series of cards, letters and gifts over a three-month period and had two supervised contact sessions, after his breath tested negative for the presence of alcohol.
Pictured: Advocate Samantha McFadzean, the Family Division Registrar of the Royal Court.
The officer told the Court she didn’t feel it was safe for the girl to see her father, who she said was unable to be “safe and present emotionally” due to being “invested in his relationship with alcohol”.
She therefore recommended the father should send a card or letter to his daughter twice a year to maintain indirect contact.
She noted there was no facility in the island able to provide the sort of supervised safe contact which would enable the little girl to see her father safely.
“The child supported contact centre is inadequate to police the father’s misuse of alcohol; the JFCAS officer explained that it is, in any event, for the father to regulate himself rather than his behaviour to be regulated by an external agency,” Ms McFadzean wrote in her judgment.
Pictured: In the absence of a centre providing supervised contact, some children are being deprived of seeing their parents.
Later on in the document, she noted how the options available to families such as the one involved in the case, are limited.
She referred to Milli’s Separated Family Centre, a local charity which provides support for families struggling with divorce or separation particularly in relation to organising child contact and handovers.
She however noted that the centre cannot offer supervised contact where testing is conducted to ensure that a child is “safely able to enjoy contact for a limited period and in secure conditions with a parent with drug or alcohol issues”.
“The absence of such a regulated and properly run facility on the island is to the detriment of our young people who deserve every opportunity to see their parents whenever feasible,” the Registrar wrote.
Pictured: The Registrar recommended indirect contact between the father and daughter.
She then went on to say that had such a facility been available, she would have been “more inclined” to consider direct contact between the child and her father.
“There is no reason, in principle, why supervised contact should not take place in the long term if the welfare of the child demands it,” she wrote.
“However, this is not an option in Jersey and, in any event, until the father begins to address his addiction, the potential emotional harm to [the child] outweighs the benefit to her wellbeing of growing up with a meaningful attachment to her father.”
Ms McFadzean therefore concluded the father should only have indirect contact with his daughter every other month, voicing the hope that he will “finally address what are currently very concerning issues for his daughter’s welfare and his physical and mental health."
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