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Support meetings give you the opportunity to ask questions of our volunteers, meet other parents and grandparents with the same issues and share ideas and suggestions you may find helpful.
We help you to come up with a plan so that you can see your children / grandchildren.
In most meetings you may also get free one to one legal advice from a solicitor in partnership with the Law Society's charity - Law Works Cymru.
Where are the support meetings?
Look on the left hand side of every page of our web site and you'll see a list of towns in Wales. They are in alphabetical order, starting with Aberystwyth (although we're trying to re-start a meeting here at the moment - January 2018)
Go to the town that is nearest to you on the list and click the "more information". This takes you to another page on our web site with details of the time and place of the support meeting in that town.
Yes, you are welcome to come to any support meeting
What happens at a meeting?
All of the support meetings are run slightly differently. As you can see in the photo, we have almost as many ladies attend our meetings as men! This photo was taken at the end of a Christmas meeting when we had brought some Christmas food along to cheer us all up but we don't usually have food available and we can't even guarentee that you will have a cup of tea.
In small meetings, everybody sits round a table. In a larger meeting, we sometimes split you into groups so you'll be near somebody who may have had a similar problem and can tell you how they have coped.
We usually try to work out what your problems are very quickly. It helps us to help you if you complete our paperwork with a volunteer. There is a Referral Form that everyone needs to complete, particularly if you want to see a solicitor. It's a huge help if you download the form above, complete it and bring it along with you to the meeting.
It also helps to have a plan of what you want to happen so you can spend time with the children you care about. People often say 'I just want to see my children' which is fine BUT it helps for you to write down the days, times etc and how the childr/ren will be handed over and collected. Don't worry that you ex wont agree at this stage - just write down what you want. We're working on a Template that will help you.
The explanation at the start of the meeting
Once the meeting starts officially, we explain a few things and we give you guidelines. For example, to protect your child's confidentiality, we suggest you talk about your son or your daughter but that you don't name them. We also ask you not to name a CAFCASS Cymru worker, social worker or any other professional eg judge, lawyer etc., again so that it protects your case. We need everybody to respect everybody's else right to confidentiality.
We tell you what we are able to do and we explain a few terms that you may have heard that you may not understand. Litigant in Person for one. This means a parent is going to represent themselves in court.
We know that people often want the charity to help them speak to other professionals or to write letters on their behalf. We are really limited in what we can do because we have such a small income.
If you can help us with donations or fundraising eg sponsored runs / bake sales etc then please tell the person who runs the meeting or email email@example.com directly.
Sharing your story
Once we have done the explanation we go round everybody in person and ask if they would like to share their story. Usually we ask you to be very brief, so we can give everybody a chance to speak.
Our volunteers will have been listening and quietly matching people up with volunteers who may be able to help you. This isn't always obvious. But please don't think we are being rude if we only give you a few moments to tell us your problem. It will just mean that we know you either must have legal advice or that we can give you some useful support as volunteers. We will do our best to make sure you leave the meeting with a clear idea of what you need to do to "move your problem forward".
After seeing a solicitor, please return to the meeting.
We are really glad when people return to the meeting. Sometimes if you share with everybody the advice you have had from the solicitor it can help others. Sometimes just by saying what the advice was, you find you can remember better what you need to do.
Lots of people say that they've been told they can't get Legal Aid. We can discuss how Legal Aid is still available and how we may be able to help you get it. Have a look at the Legal Aid link on the black menu bar of this website.
Help away from the meetings
We'll try to remind you of the next monthly meeting by email a few days before it is due to take place. We also recommend that you stay in touch with us through our Facebook page (FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru) or by calling our Helpline (see details at the top of our Home Page).
We're also planning to start a 'Buddy' scheme in some areas of Wales soon where volunteers will keep in touh and help you stay focussed and positive to solve your problems.
Do offer to help us in some way
We run the charity on a shoe string. We have some fantastic volunteers who make it possible for us to help you. We are glad for all sorts of help.
National Manager, FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru - January 2018