Grantee SpotlightJanuary 2020
Strafford County Supervised Visitation Center: Where we have been and where we are going
“Not on our watch!” Such has been our motto since we opened our doors in 2014, a mere six months after a nine year-old boy was killed by his father as part of a homicide/suicide at a nearby visitation center. Consequently, we view every visit as potentially dangerous, while striving to create a child-friendly environment for the families we serve. Hundreds of families have sought monitored exchanges or fully supervised visits at our Center since then with no indication of decreasing demand.
While safety remains job one, we also ask every parent: “What else do you need?” Facilitating access to those services through the Family Justice Center and other community partners has remained an important component of our project and has included: resources for financial empowerment, civil legal assistance and victim services. In addition, we have been working with our state-wide judicial system and the Battered Women’s Justice Project to adapt services such as “First Appearance,” parenting plan templates and alternative dispute resolution procedures to be more responsive to the needs of victim-parents.
Over the next few years, our efforts will expand to focus on developing: (1) targeted interventions for those whose stalking and other abusive behaviors arose post-separation; (2) services for victim parents who have been misidentified as the predominant aggressor and/or have lost custody of their children; (3) a state-wide network of safety-focused visitation/exchange providers (due to the relative dearth of such services currently in NH); and (4) our relationship with the local Family Justice Center as part of our continual effort to refine the role of our visitation center in promoting safety and welfare.