A ground-breaking scheme – unique to Wales – will offer independent support, guidance and advocacy for families in the family court process to avoid the distress caused by the removal of children into care and contested adoption.
Funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, the Family Court Companion project works closely with some of the most deprived and marginalised families in Wales to allow children to remain with their families where it is safe for them to do so.
To date, the project has supported more than 40 families with over 80 children, across 11 local authority areas in Wales. Funding has also been used to recruit two new caseworkers as well as support volunteer recruitment.
The project, run by CAIS, holds bi-monthly information workshops to improve awareness raising and networking opportunities.
Chief executive Clive Wolfendale said: “Family breakdown, the removal of children into care and contested adoption can be hugely distressing, damaging and disruptive – for children and for parents.
“The Family Court Companion project is a much-needed initiative which will provide objective advocates for families as they navigate the often-confusing legal process. This could be in the Family Court to around the kitchen table and all points in between.
”Preventative projects like FCC can provide better support for deprived and marginalised parents and help to prevent children being taken into care wherever safe to do so and also reducing the costs to the public purse by keeping children out of the care system.
“The welfare of the children is paramount. It’s a sad fact but all too often children in the care system have poorer educational attainment and employment outcomes, are more likely to commit offences, have a higher risk of substance misuse problems and are at a greater risk of homelessness.
“Our dedicated staff will work alongside a wide range of specialist organisations, social services, third sector organisations, CAFCASS Cymru as well as judges and magistrates, to ensure parents can get the help and support they need.”
Family Court Companion liaison co-ordinator Yaina Samuels said: “Marginalised families from our most deprived communities are most likely to be involved in proceedings in the family court.
"I have seen first-hand the impact removing children can have on a family. It’s devastating, especially when early interventions can help prevent removal from the family, wherever possible and wherever safe.
“We work closely with our partner agencies including NuHi Training, social services, the courts, and a wide range of other specialists to ensure families get access to the effective, timely and independent support they need.
“I cannot stress the value of this project to those individuals and families desperate for independent support and guidance as they face the family court process.
"The Family Court Companion is here to provide the links needed for early intervention, with court being the last resort. Our role is also to offer effective help with parental substance misuse, mental health conditions and other support needs.”