Principle IV of the Guiding Principles of the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) states that visitation centers should treat every individual using their services with respect and fairness, while taking into account the abuse that has occurred within the family.

The Supervised Visitation Program Philosophy and Perspective

The goal of the Supervised Visitation Program is to promote the safety of child(ren) and adult victims of domestic violence during visitation and exchange. Individuals using visitation center services often do so because one family member has abused another. Because the majority of families who use visitation or exchange services are often doing so by court order, adult victims may feel re-victimized and powerless, particularly if they are the visiting parent; batterers may feel that the court and the visitation center are siding with the victim; and the children may feel responsible for the abuse and its consequences. In addition, individuals often view visitation center staff as holding positions of power, a perception that may be underscored if staff are not representative of the community in which the center operates.

Even so, visitation centers can still acknowledge the abuse perpetrated by the batterer and provide for the safety of child(ren) and adult victims while treating all individuals with respect and fairness. Treating individuals fairly and courteously, as well as recognizing each individual’s right to personal dignity, is a cornerstone to the provision of effective visitation and exchange services.

Understanding the issues that impact the individuals using visitation and exchange services, including issues of poverty, homelessness, immigration, and unemployment, will help visitation center staff gain and retain the trust of each person using the center. To that end, responses to battering behavior need to be accomplished in a manner that does not dehumanize the batterer. If a batterer has a positive reaction to using the visitation center, safety for child(ren) and adult victims may be enhanced.

However, visitation center staff need to be cognizant of the power imbalance inherent in a relationship where one parent has been abusive to the other. In such cases, fairness is rarely achieved through notions of sameness or impartiality. Each individual using the visitation center has her or his own unique experiences that must be accounted for in designing appropriate visitation and exchange services. Fair and respectful treatment of all individuals, while not ignoring the circumstances that bring families to the center, promotes the overall goal of the center—ensuring the safety of children and adult victims of domestic violence and holding batterers accountable for their actions.

Respect and Fairness Specific Resources
  • Fathering After Violence: Working with Abusive Fathers in Supervised Visitation by Juan Carlos Areán, Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund) (2007). This guide assists supervised visitation programs that want to enhance the safety and well-being of women and children by working more deliberately with abusive fathers who use the centers to visit their children. Read this guide

  • It’s In Their Culture: Fairness and Cultural Considerations in Domestic Violence by Sujata Warrier in Vol. 46, Issue 3 of the Family Court Review (2008). This article develops a critical framework on the issue of culture and provides specific ways in which a more nuanced understanding of culture is helpful for court personnel as they grapple with how to work with a diverse population. Read this article

  • New Perspectives on Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange: Orientation by Jane Sadusky, Praxis International, Inc. (2008). This paper provides an overview of a shift in supervised visitation practice in the context of domestic violence from agency-centered intake to person-centered orientation as a framework for welcoming mothers, fathers, and children to the experience of supervised visitation. Read this paper

  • Supervised Visitation Programs: Information for Mothers who Have Experienced Abuse by Jill Davies, Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund) (2007). This guide is for mothers who have experienced abuse and whose children are in supervised visitation programs. It is designed to help women whether they are visiting children or bringing children to visit. Read this guide