Women’s Aid Federation England (WAFE) has launched the Child First campaign which focuses on domestic abuse, safe child contact and the family courts.

WAFE launched the campaign by publishing a seminal piece of research entitled ‘Nineteen Child Homicides’ which details the cases of nineteen children, all killed by a parent who was also a known perpetrator of domestic abuse over a ten year period. These killings were made possible by unsafe formal and informal child contact arrangements.  The research found that in twelve families:
• 19 children killed
• Two women killed
• Two children seriously harmed through attempted murder
• Seven men dead by suicide after committing child homicide

The key recommendations from ‘Nineteen Child Homicides’ are:
1. Further avoidable child deaths must be prevented by putting children first in the family courts – as the legal framework and guidance states
2. There is an urgent need for independent, national oversight into the implementation of Practice Direction 12J – Child Arrangement and Contact Orders: Domestic Violence and Harm

The Child First campaign is asking the Government and family court judiciary to ensure the family courts do everything they can to protect the children that they have been set up to keep safe. Whilst only a minority of child contact cases, after the parents have separated, are taken to the family courts, many of these cases involving domestic abuse result in contact decisions which do not put the children’s safety and best interests first. This can leave them, and their non-abusive, parent in considerable danger. The Child First campaign is calling on the Government and family court judiciary to:
• End avoidable child deaths through unsafe child contact.
• Make the legal presumption that contact with a perpetrator of domestic violence is not always in the best interests of the child a reality by the effective implementation of Practice Direction 12J.
• Make the family courts fit for purpose through the introduction of protection measures for survivors of domestic abuse.

WAFE has also published a literature review of all the evidence relating to child contact and domestic abuse conducted by Dr Ravi Thiara and Dr Christine Harrison at the University of Warwick. A copy of this is available on the WAFE website:

https://www.womensaid.org.uk/childfirst/

How you can support the campaign
• You can support WAFE’s campaign by signing and sharing their petition:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/child-first-safe-child-contact-saves-lives