Visitation centers provide a service that is part of a larger consortium of services designed to enhance safety and protection for children and adult victims of domestic violence. To be successful in fulfilling their mission, centers must operate within a collaborative framework that includes a partnership – a state, tribal, or local unit of government; a visitation center; a court; and a domestic violence or sexual assault program. This partnership allows communities to build their capacity for coordinated community responses; view the problems or challenges through diverse lenses; address existing systems and improve responses; and create a partnership and coordination among community entities in order to ensure continuity of services.
The visitation center is part of a larger community response to enhance the safety of child(ren) and adult victims and hold batterers accountable, while providing access to visitation and exchange services. Visitation centers are among the few programs that interact with each member of the family. As such, they have a unique opportunity to identify needs and gaps in services for child(ren) and adult victims, batterers, and the community at large.
Visitation centers serving child(ren) and adult victims of domestic violence are in a position to: provide a safe space for children to visit with the non-custodial parent; help keep child(ren) and adult victims of domestic violence safe during exchanges and visitation; hold batterers accountable for their violence and abuse during visitation and exchange; be part of an expansion of services to support child(ren) and adult victims; and provide access to meaningful referrals.
The Justice for Families Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) requires a partnership with the court system. Courts must remain vigilant regarding the potential danger inherent in domestic violence cases and take appropriate steps to protect the physical safety of child(ren) and adult victims when they come to court.
When there is a finding of domestic violence, courts can protect child(ren) and adult victims of domestic violence from further violence by exercising their broad authority to craft custody and visitation orders tailored to the particular safety needs of the child(ren) and adult victim. Courts also play a key role in overseeing continuous improvement of service to the public. In particular, judges can ensure that the court system works in collaboration with the other partners in the development and implementation process; educate the core partners and community about how the court system works, in particular, family law, custody and visitation, and protection order cases; and seek out education opportunities to ensure they are making appropriate and safe custody and visitation arrangements in cases involving domestic violence.
Domestic Violence Programs
The Justice for Families Supervised Visitation Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) requires a partnership with a domestic violence program. Domestic violence advocates generally advocate for adult victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence advocates provide victims with information and resources, explore the range of options available to victims, and support the choices victims make. This role enables advocates to gain valuable insight into victims’ experiences with domestic violence, including experiences with the civil and criminal justice systems. As such, domestic violence advocates are in a position to: help develop center policies and procedures; help assess these policies and procedures for unintended consequences to child(ren) and adult victims; train partners about the dynamics of domestic violence, the impact of domestic violence on children, and available community resources; and build relationships with centers in ways that support meaningful referrals that impact long-term, post-separation safety.
Units of Government
The Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) requires a partnership with a state, tribal, or local unit of government. The state, tribal, or local unit of government appoints an employee of the applicant agency as the coordinator for the Supervised Visitation Program project.
This person is responsible for coordinating the financial and programmatic aspects of the project, including serving as the point of contact with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and technical assistance providers; convening consulting committee meetings; coordinating site visits and on-site technical assistance events; participating in mandatory OVW meetings and trainings; and ensuring that the project is developed and implemented in compliance with the statutory minimum requirements of the Supervised Visitation Program.