Attorney Anne Shale Takes A Tour Of The Family Visitation Center In Greene County, Ohio
Family Visitation Center Provides Services For Families Needing Assistance With Visitation Exchanges
On December 10, 2010, I visited Erma’s House in Dayton, Ohio in order to gain information to write an article about the Visitation Center for Montgomery County, Ohio. On December 23, 2013, I had the opportunity to visit and tour the Greene County Family Visitation Center located at 143 East Market Street, Xenia, Ohio 45385 to learn about the services provided by the Family Visitation Center. I had the privilege to meet and spend time with Libby Powers, Program Coordinator and Mediator for the Family Visitation Center. The Family Visitation Center is located in a former two (2) story residence which provides the facility with a “homey” atmosphere and a warm/friendly environment.
Family Visitation Center Mission Statement:
The Greene County Family Visitation Center’s mission is to provide supportive supervised visitation and exchange services in a neutral, safe, comfortable and structured environment.
Family Visitation Center History:
The plan to create a supervised visitation program was the result of collaborative planning efforts of several Greene County programs and agencies. Those entities included the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, the Juvenile Court, the Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA), the Domestic Relations Court, the Domestic Violence Prevention Center, the Family and Children First Department, the Children Services Board, and a local attorney, Paul W. Barrett. In 1998, the Greene County Supervised Visitation Program was opened. For the first two years, the program operated in rooms housed by the Community Network, a community mental health facility. In 2000, the program came under the direction of the Greene County Family and Children First Department rather than the Greene County Juvenile Court. During October of 2000, the Family Visitation Center moved to its permanent location at 143 East Market Street in Xenia, Ohio.
Services Offered At The Family Visitation Center:
- Supervised Visitation: A “supervised visitation” is the contact between a child or children and an adult (usually the non-custodial parent) in a safe and family friendly setting. The visitation or parenting time is monitored by trained employees of the Center or by trained volunteers.
- Neutral Exchanges: This service is provided to parents wherein the visitation does not have to be supervised and/or monitored but there is a need for the exchange of the children to occur without any interaction between the parents. Generally, this means that the parents are defined as “high-conflict” parents wherein there could be an outburst of anger, angry words, and/or demeaning statements by one parent about the other party. These neutral exchanges take place between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Fridays and between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Family Visitation Center Hours of Operation:
The Family Visitation Center offers supervised visitation on Monday and Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., on Friday from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m., and on Sunday from 12 noon until 6:30 p.m. The two-hour time slot on Friday was recently added as the case load of families has increased in size. As stated above, visitation exchanges take place on Friday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Sunday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
How Does the Family Visitation Center Manage to Avoid Confrontation between Parents during Visitation Periods and Visitation Exchanges?
The Family Visitation Center has two (2) separate entrances and waiting areas. The custodial parent utilizes the front door when bringing the child or children to the Center. And, the non-custodial parent uses the side door when bringing the child or children to the Center. Both doors are kept locked during the times the Family Visitation Center is open. Parents must use the doorbell and have a photo identification card to gain admission to the facility. Parents must use the parking lots assigned for the custodial parent(s) and the non-custodial parent(s) and they must enter and leave the facility without loitering or trying to see/contact the other parent.
Who Staffs the Family Visitation Center?
Libby Powers, the Program Coordinator/Mediator, is the only full-time staff member. In addition to Ms. Powers, there are three (3) part-time employees and a host of volunteers. The volunteers may be college students serving their internships for credit in their psychology or sociology (social work) programs. Each volunteer receives twenty (20) hours of training before being used as a visitation monitor. Training sessions are planned to take place in April, August, and December of each year. When I asked Ms. Powers what would be on her “Wish List” for the Family Visitation Center, she quickly replied that it would be so very helpful to have additional staff employees as so much time is utilized in training new interns and volunteers!
What are the Levels of Family Visitation Center Supervision?
- Level One: The visitation monitor remains in the room for the entire visitation period.
- Level Two: The visitation monitor observes the interaction between the parent and child every ten (10) minutes.
- Level Three: The visitation monitor observes the interaction between the parent and child every thirty (30) minutes.
Who Determines the Level of Supervision at the Family Visitation Center?
The particular level of supervision might be determined by the referral agency (Juvenile Court, Domestic Relations Court, and/or Children Services Agency) or it might be determined by Libby Powers after she is advised of the rationale or reason for the referral.
How Many Families are Being Served by the Family Visitation Center?
Currently, the Family Visitation Center has thirty-two (32) families involved with supervised visitation and seven (7) families involved with visitation exchanges on Friday and Sunday afternoons.
What is the Level of Security During Visitations or Exchanges at the Family Visitation Center?
The Family Visitation Center does not have a security guard or security volunteer present during operating hours. But, each room has a button which rings in the local police department and/or Sheriff’s Office which are within one block of the Family Visitation Center. If a parent is misbehaving, is loud and/or unruly, is argumentative or aggressive, the staff and volunteers know how to press the button for help and assistance.
What Items Can Be Brought to the Family Visitation Center by Visiting Parents? What Items Cannot Be Brought to the Center by Visiting Parents?
Laptops, cell phones, tablets, or other electronic devices are not permitted in the Family Visitation Center. And, guns, knives, or anything that could be used as a weapon are strictly forbidden at the Family Visitation Center. Parents may bring food items, toys, games, and musical instruments. Anything being brought to the center must be viewed and examined by the staff members or the trained volunteers. If cameras are brought to the Family Visitation Center, they are held by the staff or volunteers and photos may only be taken by the staff members or volunteers.
How Many Visitations Can Occur at One Time at the Family Visitation Center?
There are four (4) rooms wherein visitations can take place and each room is homey and comfortable in appearance. One family is assigned to each of the four rooms so a total of four (4) visitations can take place at the same time. Each room has a couch or other seating arrangements and each room has a table where games can be played or craft projects can be made. The rooms are carpeted and the windows have shades/blinds and/or curtains. The room for infants and toddlers even has a rocking chair and age-appropriate toys. Ms. Powers proudly showed me some new toys that had recently been donated to the Family Visitation Center. When I asked her what she would like to see added to the Family Visitation Center, she responded that the bathroom was not wheelchair accessible. If and when appropriate funds would become available, she would like to have the bathroom remodeled to accommodate those persons who are wheelchair dependent.
Like Erma’s House in Montgomery County, the Greene County Family Visitation Center serves the needs of families experiencing difficulties with visitation and/or parenting time and those high-conflict families needing assistance with visitation exchanges. The Family Visitation Center accepts babies, toddlers, and small children through age eighteen (18). Upon reaching the age of eighteen (18), the young adults would be deemed to have “graduated” from the program.
Contact The Greene County Ohio Family Visitation Center
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.