Principle VI of the Guiding Principles of the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) states that visitation centers should work with the community collaborative to ensure that child(ren) and adult victims have meaningful access to services and should actively link individuals to those services.
The Supervised Visitation Program Philosophy and Perspective
For purposes of this document, advocacy can be defined as working with child(ren) and adult victims to understand their circumstances and experiences of violence and abuse in order to provide accurate information about and referrals to available services that can best meet their individual needs. Advocacy includes linking child(ren) and adult victims to trained domestic violence service providers and other appropriate resources and supportive services.
An essential component of effective advocacy is having supportive community conditions, community-based intervention services, policies, and resources that centralize victim safety and hold batterers accountable. Because visitation centers are one of the few services that interact with each member of the family, they are in a unique position to identify the needs and gaps in visitation and exchange services, both for individuals and for the community at large.
Advocacy has been a longstanding role and function of most programs concerned with the safety of child(ren) and adult victims of domestic violence. Visitation and exchange services can supplement traditional victim services by offering supervised settings in which parent-child relationships can continue safely.
Visitation centers can serve as a gateway through which needed services can be more readily accessed by child(ren) and adult victims who may not be aware of additional services available in the community. However, it should be understood that visitation centers do not advocate for, or speak on behalf of, adult victims of domestic violence or serve as domestic violence advocates within the overall scope of the visitation center. Rather, visitation centers can work with the community collaborative to ensure that child(ren) and adult victims have direct access to trained domestic violence advocates and culturally appropriate resources available to assist them in securing a range of supportive services.
When visitation center staff take time to understand the issues that child(ren) and adult victims face, they can better provide accurate information about and referrals to resources. In addition, visitation center staff that have such understanding are also more equipped to provide appropriate referrals for parents who batter to address and change their battering behavior, to stop using violence, and to prevent further harm caused by domestic violence.
Advocacy Specific Resources
- Advocacy Beyond Leaving: Helping Battered Women in Contact with Current or Former Spouses by Jill Davies, Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund) (2009). This guide offers practical suggestions to assist advocates working day-to-day with victims and uses the familiar and concrete framework of woman-defined advocacy to explain advocates’ important role in safety planning when victims are in contact with current or former spouses. Read this guide
- Domestic Violence Program and Children’s Records: Issues of Confidentiality and Release by Sandra Tibbets and Jenna Yauch, Battered Women’s Justice Project (2009). The importance of confidentiality in the lives of battered women and their children cannot be understated. Preserving confidentiality for these women and children is central to ensuring their safety and allowing them to regain and retain control over their lives. This paper provides guidance to domestic violence programs regarding children’s records and serves as a starting place for internal policy development on this issue. Read this paper
- Effective Advocacy on Behalf of Battered Women by Loretta Frederick, Battered Women’s Justice Project (2002). This article discusses the characteristics of a battering relationship, the impact on battered women’s advocacy needs, and advocacy principles as applied to working with battered women. Read this article
- Helping Children Thrive: Supporting Woman Abuse Survivors as Mothers by Linda Baker and Alison Cunningham, Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System (2004). This guide is for service providers assisting victims of domestic violence. It addresses the needs of abused women as mothers, the parenting of abusive men, how abusive men effect family dynamics, the effects of power and control on mothers, the potential impact of woman abuse on children of different ages, and strategies used by young people to cope with violence in their homes and offers guidance on parenting children exposed to violence. Read this guide
- Resource Guide for Advocates and Attorneys on Interpretation Services for Domestic Violence Victims by Chic Dabby and Cannon Han, Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence (2009). This guide focuses on court interpretation for domestic and sexual violence victims with limited English proficiency and informs on how advocacy, interpretation, and language access can be integrated. Read this guide
 As noted in Principle V, Community Collaboration, harmful or ineffective systemic responses identified by the visitation center and the individuals who use its services, domestic violence practitioners, the courts, and others, particularly those issues related to post-separation violence, can be addressed through the work of the community collaborative; in this way, the center’s advocacy efforts can expand beyond individuals and effect overall systems change.