Restoring relationships: Volunteer team leaders Chris Johnson, left, and Clive Bridgewater, right, with service manager Sarah Manthorpe, second left, and social work manager Rachel Larkin
Absent fathers often don’t want to be absent, but for various reasons their time with their children has to be supervised or they simply don’t have somewhere suitable to take their child.
This is where Child Contact Centres (CCCs) come in. They provide a safe place, usually in a church hall, where dads and kids can meet, play and enjoy precious bonding time.
Children who do not have access to both parents are prone to behavioural and emotional problems, according to the National Association of Child Contact Centres. “Finding a place that allows the parent without everyday care of your child(ren) to be a parent can sometimes be hard,” their website says.
Referrals to a CCC are made by solicitors and social workers; 90% of the parents referred are fathers.
Unsurprisingly, these centres are often staffed by church members, thanks to church funding and facilities. Recently the Crawley CCC had to close for financial reasons, so with the other nearest centres being as far-flung as Haywards Heath, Lancing or Tunbridge Wells, the Horsham CCC has taken on more clients.
Run by Kingdom Faith Church, its part-time salaried staff are social work manager Rachel Larkin and service manager Sarah Manthorpe.
Rachel and Sarah work with three teams of 5-7 volunteers, including some beefy males, who give up their time from 11-3.30 on a Saturday (on a six-week rota) to help host the dads and kids in a big play area set up in a section of the church foyer.
Rachel says, “The highest crime rates among children aren’t due to poverty, but to fatherlessness. We’re about restoring relationships.”