Principle II states that visitation centers should be responsive to the background, circumstances, and cultures of their community and the families they serve.

The Supervised Visitation Program Philosophy and Perspective

Decades of grassroots advocacy have helped shape how various systems respond today to domestic violence. Yet, only recently has this response begun to address issues of culture[1] or diversity in relation to such violence or the provision of services.[2]

Generally, individuals, organizations, and communities often experience the world through their own cultural lens, whether it is recognized or named as such. Well-intentioned service providers, including visitation centers, have often established uniform approaches to services to increase efficiency or to make use of scarce resources.

However, a one-size-fits-all approach to delivering visitation and exchange services can limit a visitation center’s ability to assess its own organizational culture and to recognize and be responsive to the different culture(s), life experiences, values, and circumstances of the individuals, families, and communities coming into contact with its services. Failure to understand the social and cultural context of those who use visitation centers can lead to decisions that increase the risks to children and adult victims and reduce the usefulness of services.

While many visitation centers operate with limited resources, it is important to realize that the most cost effective way of providing services may not be the safest or most culturally appropriate. Valuing multiculturalism and diversity requires individuals and organizations to engage continually in self-reflection and self-critique, to become aware of their own cultural identities and backgrounds, and to examine their own patterns of unintentional and intentional bias against or for race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, socio-economic status, disabilities, or other axes of identification.[3]

Individuals experience their culture(s) differently and respond to traditional cultural values in different ways and to varying degrees. An individual’s cultural reality comes from the unique perspective based on that person’s life experiences in the context of the cultural groups in which she or he moves.[4] Visitation center staff, therefore, must be willing to listen to and try to understand the individual experiences and perspectives of those with whom they work. Incorporating multiculturalism and diversity into center practice can enhance safety and lead to better outcomes for children, adult victims, and batterers.[5]


[1] One definition of culture is shared experiences or commonalities based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, socio-economic status, physical abilities, or other axes of identification. See, Michael M. Runner & Sujata Warrier, Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund), Cultural Considerations in Domestic Violence Cases: A National Judicial Education Curriculum, Section 2.21 (2001).

[2] Tricia B. Bent-Goodley, Culture and Domestic Violence: Transforming Knowledge Development, 20 J. Interpersonal Violence 201 (2005).

[3] See, Melanie Tervalon & Jann Murray-Garcia, Cultural Humility Versus Cultural Competence: A Critical Distinction in Defining Physician Training Outcomes in Multicultural Education, 9 J. Health Care for Poor & Underserved 117 (1998), as cited in Praxis Int’l, Inc., A Discussion of Accounting for Culture in Supervised Visitation Practices: The City of Chicago, Illinois Demonstration Site Experience (Dec. 2005).

[4] Patricia St. Onge et al., Nat’l Community Dev. Inst., Through the Lens of Race and Culture: Building Capacity for Social Change and Sustainable Communities (2003)

[5] Firoza Chic Dabby & A. Autry, Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund), Activist Dialogues: How Domestic Violence and Child Welfare Systems Impact Women of Color and Their Communities (2005);  Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund), Cross-Cultural Solidarity (2005).