One of the lesser known but more impactful programs Family & Children’s Place provides is its Supervised Visitation Center. Sited at the agency’s Shively office, just off Dixie Highway, the center provides a safe place for visits and exchanges for children and families affected by family violence and for children removed from their home due to abuse and/or severe neglect.
It’s was one of the first centers of its kind to be accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), the premier accrediting body for social service agencies in the United States, and has been helping children and families since 1999.
“Whether parents live together or apart, they have a shared responsibility for their children,” said Donna Russow, vice president of Programs for Family & Children’s Place. “Most importantly, children do better when they have regular contact with both parents, regardless of their parents’ relationship.
At Family & Children’s Place, supervised visitation is organized around the safety and wellbeing of the child – providing the means for them to maintain a relationship with the noncustodial or non-residential parent while isolating them from the conflict between parents.
“We take safety very seriously,” Russow says. That’s why the center features:
- Separate and distinct entrances and parking areas for each parent
- Staggered arrival and departure times
- Security camera monitoring
- Panic buttons
- Onsite security
We also take the emotional state of the child seriously, she said. “Our staff works hard to put the child at ease, to help him or her feel safe and that they know that we are right there with and for them.”
In a recent survey about children served due to domestic violence between parents, clients affirmed the center’s commitment to safety and keeping children and parents connected, and indicated there were positive results for them and their children. For example, out of 23 respondents, 22 percent reported a significant decrease in conflict between themselves and the other parent through onsite visitation. And while 78 percent reported it remained about the same, none reported greater conflict.
Among supervised visitation clients who responded to the survey, 47 percent are the residential parent and 53 percent are the visiting parent.
The center serves only referred clients who come due to child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence. Of the 23 respondents, 23 percent said they requested (of the courts) to use the services, 46 percent were ordered by a judge, 9 percent were referred due to the other parent’s request, 9 percent were referred as a condition of mediation and 13 percent didn’t identify the source of their referral.
Clients also reported being ordered to take classes, including anger management, 9 percent; parenting classes, 18 percent; Batterer’s Treatment Program, 18 percent; Substance abuse classes, 9 percent, and other, unidentified classes. Fifty percent of children who use the center’s services also received therapy or counseling, while the remaining 50 percent reported they didn’t utilize therapy at this time. If children do need therapy, they may be seen through Family & Children’s Place family counseling program.
Among clients responding to the survey, 21 percent had used the center’s services for fewer than three months, 9 percent three to six months, 48 percent six to 18 months and 22 percent more than 18 months. Looking forward, 26 percent expect to use services for fewer than three more months, 26 percent expect to be there an additional three to six months, 26 percent anticipate another six to 18 months, and 22 percent see another 18 or more months using services at the Visitation Center.
All – 100 percent of respondents – reported they were treated with respect and courtesy during the intake process. The majority – 95 percent – found staff to be helpful, and 84 percent reported calls to the center were handled promptly and professionally.
And 82 percent found the exchange center rooms to be child-friendly, while 96 percent found exchange center guidelines to be fair and reasonable.
In rating how their experience with the Supervised Visitation Center compared with their previous visitation arrangements, 55 percent of clients reported their children felt significantly safer during both the visitation and the exchange, and for themselves, 59 percent of adults felt safer during visitation or exchange than their previous situation.
Our work at the Supervised Visitation Center is all about helping write a different ending for these families,” said Russow, “so these results are very affirming for us.”