Chichester children's contact centre coordinator calls it a day after a decade and a half in charge

Chichester Child Contact Centre's coordinator is to step down after 14 years at the helm.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 3:19 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th October 2021, 9:50 am
Kathleen Davies will be sign off as coordinator of Chichester Child Contact Centre next month

Kathleen Davies, who has been coordinator at the child contact centre since 2007, is to bow out on November 1, with Becca Dickenson taking charge.

The contact centre, which has now opened at with longer hours due to the high demand caused by COVID-19, takes place on alternate Saturdays at Christ Church, Old Market Avenue, Chichester, and provides parents and children a safe place to meet and repair or rebuild fractured or broken relationships.

Kathleen, who had previously worked as a teacher has seen the centre double in size under her stewardship but demand is still outstripping supply, despite an increase of volunteers by 40% since the lockdowns.

Under her stewardship the charity was presented with a community award from the mayor

The volunteers have training but are not registered councilors and thus the centre does not take control of child-parent interactions, but instead supports and mediates them.

Kathleen said: "We advise, if we can, but it is always the parent taking care of the child, for instance I can show them how to change a nappy, or say: 'Why don't you play with this, or read them a story?' We can provide a relatively simple game to settle them down easily, and then they start talking, its helping them engage with the child."

"but often they are just running to see Daddy, saying: 'isn't this great!'"

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Under Kathleen's guidance, the charity received a community award from the mayor in 2020, for its work within the area.

Like many charities, the contact centre has been dramatically impacted by COVID and lockdowns, especially as many other contact centres around the country have been forced to close, increasing the demand for places. But the lockdowns have also created a new issue for Kathleen; "I call them COVID babies"

"During the COVID period, when they were born, or just before, they were very isolated and not used to socialising, they hadn't gone to nursery, they hadn't gone toddlers groups, and therefore they were much more afraid of seeing strangers, they may not have been around or held by a man before. We've had to work a lot on doing things like that. ."

"I had a dad, he had to hide behind the wall because mum and dad didn't meet, and we put toys out to attract the little girl, to come and engage that way, at the start she didn't make it up the stairs and it is only after 8 months now that she has started coming towards him on her own accord."

Kathleen will be replaced as coordinator by Becca Dickenson, who paid tribute to her and the job she has done in charge: "She has brought so much, she is so dedicated, I have got some big boots to fill! I think she's got a real passion and drive for what she does, I think to do any kind of work in this field it has to be doing something that means something to you, she goes above and beyond."

"She has taught me so much, understanding how the child centre works, but also setting it up for the future."

Carol, a who has worked for the charity for two and a half years said of Kathleen: "she's incredibly organised and efficient, but also an incredibly empathetic caring person, so they fit well together".

"she's very well-planned, but she always puts the children at the center of everything"

Becca has said she will use her experience from her job in change management to "measure the value that we add, end to end, so to put thing like surveys in from beginning to end, so then we can see the value that we add", she stated her intention to increase the centre's online presence and by 'working smarter not harder'. And demonstrated her enthusiasm for the role she will be taking on: "I'm ready for the challenge and passionate about continuing the service".

Becca, first encountered the child centre when they pitched for donations to Sainsbury's where she was working at the time: "it was definitely something that pulled on my heart-strings"

Talking of her experience of working as a volunteer she explained the importance of centre "it can be quite emotional. It can be quite rewarding. For me it is nice to be a part of a charity that is all about the child first, and because a [romantic] relationship breaks down, it doesn't mean a [parental] relationship needs to stop."

This was echoed by Kathleen: "at the end of the day, we are their last hope sometimes"

The charity is non-profit and thus are in need of funding, donations of any kind or volunteers: "We can never have too many volunteers, so people are more than welcome to apply!"

To help one can donate by buying gifts of the Amazon wishlist by clicking here or people call 07746026695 or post donations or drop them in to:

Chichester Child Contact Centre

Christ's Church

Old Market Avenue

Chichester

PO19 15W