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'Bonding' with children

A graphic account of court orders made as a result of the 'Tender Years' doctrine in practice was given by a Home Office Minister in a seminar on ‘Fatherhood’ in London. (Boateng Pledges Help For ‘Sad Dads’, The Times, October 13 2000).
We've all seen those sad dads in the Natural History Museum on a Sunday afternoon trying to keep up with their kids. But after a while dads begin to tire of McDonalds and the museum and the number of places you can go begins to dry up.’
If fathers accept contact orders limited to two 2 hour sessions per week whilst the child is still young there is a risk the child will only regard the father as the 'man who takes him or her away from Mummy' because as the Home Office Minister, Mr Boateng, would be quick to acknowledge the Natural History Museum or McDonalds hold no intrinsic value according to the sex of the parent.

Similarly on the face of it Contact Centres provide, 
'A neutral meeting place where children of separated families may enjoy contact with one or both parents, and sometimes other family members, in a comfortable and safe environment when there is no visible alternative.'
However the confusion regarding the 'Tender Years' theory and the work of Bowlby stems from the superficial observations he used to describe the attachment of a child to an adult and often Contact Centres are manned by well-meaning but unqualified volunteers who share Dr John Bowlby's view of parental attachment. 

For example the following table of 'Contact Needs' is taken from the manual used by the Portsmouth Child Contact Centre;
Contact Needs
Birth - 18 months; Children need to remain more or less in the same place and frequent and predictable pattern is most suitable.

18 months - 3 years; Consistency and frequency required.

3 years - 6 years; Children in this age group benefit from highly predictable contact including telephone calls and cards. Some sleeping can be arranged gradually.

8 years - 10 years; Weekend visits work very well for this group.

10 years - 13 years; Gender differences emerge which may affect contact with the other parent.

14 + years; Flexibility. Adolescents who maintain good contact with parents often have variable patterns of visiting and staying.
This 'Ascending Ladder of Contact' is nonsense. It is based on Bowlby's theory. The most important 'need' for any child is a meaningful relationship with both parents and there is no
reason a Non-Residental parent should not be treated with 'parity of esteem' by the Family Court.

In reality Contact Centres may only serve the Residential Parent undermining the child's relationship with the other parent. Unless the other parent is given the opportunity to relate to his or her child in a normal setting, for example sharing meals, going on outings, overnight stays, 'bonding' may be made impossible by Contact Centres.

Children do not need Contact Centres. They need both parents!