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Harpenden Child Contact Centre and Dress a Girl Around the World

On Monday 24 June Brigid Brennan, Chair of the  Harpenden Child Contact Centre HCCC  visited us to tell us about the services they provide.

A Child Contact Centre is a safe, friendly and neutral place where children from separated families can spend time with one or both parents, and sometimes other family members. It is a child-centred environment that puts the needs of the children first.

The HCCC is an accredited Member of the National Association of Child Contact Centres “Keeping children in touch with parents following separation” – there are around 350 Contact Centres in England. The key to the success of the arrangements is to facilitate the building of trust between children and their parents – the HCCC was set up 12 years ago because of the understanding of the importance for a child to have a relationship with both parents. It costs £5,500 per year to run the centre – Brigid told us how important the volunteers and the trustees are, and how they are always looking for more people to come forward to ensure they have cover for volunteers and to plan succession of trustees. There are 4 teams of volunteers and they manage the drop-in sessions two Saturdays of every month – so each team covers 6 sessions in the year. Donors are important to finance the HCCC and Brigid is working to keep them informed. Referral to a contact centre can come from almost anyone involved with the family – not necessarily by a court order. This contact centre provides unsupervised visits (there are less supervised contact centres and they need additional skills/expertise). Brigid gave us some examples of children who are helped to build new relationships after long periods without seeing a parent – often the child will have no memory of the parent so building trust takes time. Brigid spoke warmly of the work of the HCCC which although challenging is obviously rewarding. She was asked quite a few questions by our Members (of course!) which she was more than happy to answer. She is pictured in the centre here with Denise Powell (l) from the End Violence Against Women Team who organised for Brigid to come and our President Katherine Clark (r).

After coffee we had a group activity cutting out dresses for Some of the team are pictured here with fabric, patterns and sharp scissors – Amanda Brown who is behind this project is in the centre at the front of the pic – the table on the left has Denise Powell, Rita Andrews and Joan Williams deep in concentration (the other Member Jane Slatter left the team to take this pic) and the table on the right has Sarah Lichman, Kat Clark, Diana Kingham and Janet Audley-Charles showing us their efforts. The fabric is very bright (you can only see the reverse side here) and we are sure the girls will love their new dresses!

Another lovely Soroptimist Club evening!