Principle V of the Guiding Principles states that visitation centers should seek to operate within a community collaborative which has as its goal to centralize safety of children and adult victims and hold batterers accountable. The community collaborative will strive (1) to ensure a holistic response to each family member’s needs; (2) to stop continued abuse of children and adult victims; and (3) to eliminate the social conditions that cause intimate partner violence.
The Supervised Visitation Program Philosophy and Perspective
Separation is often the catalyst for long-term safety concerns and potentially dangerous circumstances for children and adult victims that require appropriate services and community dialogue in order to balance the safety needs of children and adult victims with parental access to the children. The need for safe visitation and exchange does not exist in isolation of other issues threatening the safety and well-being of individuals using those services, such as substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, mental illness, undocumented-immigrant status, disabilities, functional illiteracy, unemployment or underemployment, gender bias, rural isolation, and other social and cultural differences.
Visitation centers are well positioned to work with the broader community to identify the needs of families and community members in areas fundamental to safety and well-being (e.g., domestic violence and legal advocacy, housing, nutrition, income, employment, education, health, and transportation). The responsibility for balancing safety and access in these situations rests not only with the centers, but also with the communities in which they operate. Therefore, centers should work as part of a broad community network that responds holistically to a family’s range of needs.
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 meeting their mission, centers funded under the Supervised Visitation Program must operate within a collaborative framework that includes a partnership (grantee, visitation centers, courts, and domestic violence or sexual assault programs) and a community collaborative (other community members and services).
The partnership is the primary source of information and services surrounding use of visitation centers. Visitation centers receiving funding through the Supervised Visitation Program are required to establish working relationships with each partner. It is at the partnership level that important issues such as effective case processing, information exchange, and safe services can be addressed. Cooperation and active participation from each partner are essential.
The community collaborative refers to a network of resources for children and adult victims of domestic violence and includes the partners, social service agencies and other service providers, child welfare agencies, law enforcement, health care systems, faith institutions, neighborhood and cultural associations, community leaders/people of influence, and families who use visitation services and their friends and extended family members. These collaboratives can address systemic, policy, or legal barriers to achieving safety and well-being for children and adult victims through community-based efforts that prioritize safe and appropriate custody and visitation arrangements; identify barriers to service delivery; reach out to community members not accessing services; support the understanding of the role of visitation centers within the community; participate in community efforts to resolve other issues such as substance abuse, poverty, racism, or gender bias; and identify solutions to service fragmentation.
Family members are often drawn into a complex maze of legal, administrative, and service-oriented processes during the protracted period of determining visitation and custody arrangements. The combined community response to the family can be fragmented, often involving several cases, agencies, and dozens of practitioners. These multiple levels of interventions can contradict one another, be so broad that they miss important opportunities to address victim safety, or actually produce actions that can endanger adult victims. It is the responsibility of the community collaborative to identify and address gaps in services.
Both the partnership and the community collaborative are instrumental not only in providing safe services for the individuals using visitation centers, but also in identifying and eliminating barriers to achieving safety and stability for children and adult victims.