Strategies to Improve Supervised Visitation in Domestic Violence

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The following article was written by M. Sharon Maxwell, LCSW, Ph.D. and Karen Oehme, J.D. and is merely a portion of the larger article which can be found by clicking here. Professional Providers are encouraged to stay informed regarding “Best Practices” in domestic violence visitation cases.

If supervised visitation programs are to continue to be used in domestic violence cases, there

must be a more critical examination of the current provision of services in programs with the

goals of enhancing the safety of participants and confronting evidence of domestic violence as

it is manifested in supervised visitation programs. There are a number of strategies that can be

recommended but they must be addressed system-wide and become part of a coordinated

community response to ending domestic violence.

Judicial Strategies

• A formal evaluation of the alleged perpetrator and the victim should be ordered prior to the

court-order for supervised visitation. A key component of this evaluation must be a lethality

assessment. The evaluation should be conducted by a mental health professional who has

had specific domestic violence training in conducting such evaluations.

• If domestic violence is confirmed, judges should order the batterer to complete a certified

batterers intervention program before ordering supervised visitation. This is currently

mandated in Louisiana ( Ver Steegh, 2000 ).

• Once a family court judge orders supervised visitation, a schedule for judicial review of the

case must be established and maintained ( NYSPCC, 2000 ).

• Family law judges should collaborate with their local supervised visitation programs on a

regular basis regarding non-case specific issues which involve operational and policy

aspects of the program. Program limitations in accepting certain cases should be delineated,

procedures for handling court orders from other jurisdictions should be established,

procedures for providing services to families with special needs covered under the American

with Disabilities Act should be determined.

• Family law judges must acknowledge that supervised visitation programs are not appropriate

in all domestic violence cases. The potential for lethality is so great in some cases, as has

been demonstrated by program reports and experiences, that visitation programs cannot

offer an adequate assurance of safety.

• Courts should work with their local supervised visitation providers to develop formal letters

of agreement which specifically outline policies and procedures for accepting domestic

violence referrals, conditions of supervised visitation orders, and the role of the supervised

visitation monitor ( Saunders, 1998 ; NCJFCJ, 1995 ; Ver Steegh, 2000 ).

• Courts should collaborate with their supervised visitation providers in developing observation

report forms for visits or exchanges and establish a mechanism for these reports to be

conveyed back to the court on a routine basis ( NYSPCC, 2000 ).

• Finally, courts must acknowledge that supervised visitation services are provided in a very

artificial setting. While the visit or exchange may go well and there are not reports of violence,

it must not automatically be inferred from a family’s experience that unsupervised visitation

will be without risk ( Straus, 1998 ). Further evaluation by domestic violence experts is

necessary before the order for supervised visitation is withdrawn.

Program Strategies

• Staff and volunteers of programs serving domestic violence cases must be adequately

trained in the dynamics of domestic violence, the impact of domestic violence upon child

witnesses, behaviors common to batterers and how these behaviors are manifested in

supervised visitation settings. They must also be informed about legal remedies, such as

orders for protection ( NYSPCC,2000 ; Maxwell &Robinson, 1998 ).

• Programs must require participants to share orders for protection with staff and these orders

should be placed in the family’s case file. If the program employs security officers, they

should also be given an opportunity to review the order ( NYSPCC, 2000 ).

• Program staff and volunteers must pay strict attention to the confidentiality of program

participants. No information about addresses, living arrangements, means of transportation,

telephone numbers and children’s school should be released. To violate a participant’s

confidentiality in this manner could dramatically increase the physical risk to the victim and

the child(ren).

Bibliography

American Bar Association. (2000). Commission on Domestic Violence. Policy 00a109A.

Bailey, M. (1999). Supervised access: A long-term solution? Family and Conciliation Courts

Review , 37: 478-486.

Edleson, J. L. (1999). Children’s witnessing of domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal

Violence , 14(8), 839-870.

Field, J. K. (1998). Visits in cases marked by violence: Judicial actions that can help keep

children and victims safe. Journal of American Judges Association , 35: 3.

Johnston, J. R. (2000). Building multidisciplinary professional partnerships with the court on

behalf of high-conflict divorcing families and their children who needs what kind of help? University

of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review, 453.

 

 

The $ and #’s Impacting Domestic Violence

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  • Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
  • Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help.
  • The costs of intimate partner violence in the US alone exceed $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
  • Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
  • 63% of all boys who commit murder kill the man who was abusing their mother.

 

  • In a national survey of more than 6,000 families in the United States, half of the men who frequently assaulted their wives also frequently abused their children.

 

  • Long-term exposure to battering can result in delinquency, higher rates of substance abuse, propensity to use or tolerate violence in future relationships, and a pessimistic view of the world.

 

  • Short-term effects of children’s exposure to domestic violence can include post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbances, separation anxiety, aggression, passivity, or desensitization to violent events.

 

  • Eighty-five percent of assaults on spouses or ex-spouses are committed by men against women with an estimated 3.3 million children exposed nationally to violence by family members against their mothers or caretakers each year.

 

  • At least 75% of children whose mothers are battered witness the violence.

 

  • In one study, forty-seven percent (47%) of homeless parents reported a history of domestic violence and one in four stated that a primary reason they sought shelter was domestic violence.

 

  • It is estimated that there are 1.35 million homeless children in the US; nearly half of these are under the age of 5.
  • Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
  • Every day in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

So you have a Supervised Visitation Court Order…Now What?

 

What is Supervised Visitation?

Supervised Visitation refers to a contact between a non-custodial parent (NCP) and one or more children in the presence of a neutral third person responsible to observing and seeking to ensure the safety of those involved. “Provider Visitation”, Supervised Child Access” and Supervised Child Contract” are other terms with the same meaning.

What is Supervised Exchange?

Supervised Exchanges sometimes referred to as “Provider Exchanges” or “Supervised/Provider Transfers”, is supervision of the transfer of the child from one parent to the other. Supervision is limited to the exchange or transfer only with the remainder of the parent/child contact remaining unsupervised. Most frequently precautions are taken to assure that the two parents or other individuals exchanging the child do not come into contact with one another.

What is the purpose?

Both Supervised Visits and Supervised Exchanges are designed to assure that a child can have safe contact with an absent parent without having to be put in the middle of the parents’ conflicts or other problems. It is the child’s need that is paramount in making any decisions regarding the need for such supervision. However, there are also some significant benefits to parents. It is our hope that no one will look upon supervised visitation or exchange as a negative or stigmatized service. It is a tool that can help families as they go through difficult and/or transitional times. Some of the benefits for the various family members are as follows:

 

For the children:

  • It allows the children to maintain a relationship with both of their parents something that is generally found to be an important factor in the positive adjustment to family dissolution.
  •  It allows them to anticipate the visits without the stress of worrying about what is going to happen and to enjoy themselves in a safe, comfortable environment without having to be put in the middle of their parents’ conflict and/or other problems.

For the custodial parents:

  • You do not have to communicate or have contact with a person with whom you are in conflict or by whom you might be frightened or intimated. The arrangements can be made by a neutral party (the visit supervisor/provider) and there does not have to be contact before, during, and after the visits.
  •  You can relax and feel comfortable allowing your child to have contact with the other parent-and can get some valuable time to yourself.

For the non-custodial parents:

You can be sure that your contact with your children does not have to be interrupted regardless of any personal or interpersonal problems you may be having.

If allegations have been made against you, which are often the case when supervision is ordered, you can visit without fear of any new accusations because there is someone present who can verify what happened during your time together. When using a professional service, you can also be assured that the supervisors are neutral and objective.

Supervision in the case of parental separation:

When parents separate, the children most often will have primary residence with one parent and regularly spend time with the other. Visitation, contact, and access are words used to refer to post-separation contact with the non-residential parent or another significant person, such as a grand-parent, sibling, or other relative. When the courts feel it is appropriate, they may order that such visitation take place in the presence of a third party.

Supervised exchanges may be court ordered or arranged by the parent and are generally appropriate when there is no question about the safety of the child, but when one or both parents do not feel safe or comfortable interacting directly with the other. It is always better for the child to not be put into a situation where he/she is exposed to the anger and conflict of the parents.

Supervision in the case of out-of-home placement:

When a child comes under the jurisdiction of Child Protective Services (CPS) and is removed from the home because of a risk of child abuse or neglect, it is usually important that the parent/child relationship continue.

CPS generally provides these services. However, they may have limited resources that restrict the frequency, duration, and nature or the contact. In some areas, they have found it useful to contract with outside supervised visitation programs to provide services.

Since supervision in the case of out-of-home placement is generally controlled very closely by the state or local CPS regulations, the information here applies primarily to supervision in the case of parental separation.

How do I make sure the service will meet my needs?

Be sure to check the court order to see if it specifics the kind of supervision (Off site or On site, Professional or Non-professional). Then check with the provider to see that all conditions can be met. Due to the limited resources available in most communities for such services, if the court order specifies a “on site agency/facility” you will probably have to be flexible and travel a distance. Some agencies are open for limited times, particularly in smaller communities. Most Professional Provider’s work weekdays, weekends and holidays. Do your Homework. Ask for references. Ask for a copy of their Certificate of Completion obtained from training class. Ask if they have Professional Liability Insurance.

Attendee Testimonials

“I love being my student’s go-to-person – talking with them as they launch their professional visitation monitoring careers, corresponding with them by email and meeting them in person at a live training session.” – Tamara L. Daniel, Business Owner, Professional Development Trainer

 “I obtained my professional monitor training from Tamara Daniels of Supervised Child Visits (SCV) in December 2013, which was one of the best decisions of my career. Since that time, I have worked consistently, currently have three clients, and have received referrals directly from local family practice attorneys.” I would highly recommend Supervised Child Visits for anyone seeking a rewarding career as a professional supervised visitation monitor.” –L. Mcgown

 

“Hi Tamara,

This is Itai and I took your class last year and finally  started the business in December  and I have had 1 steady client since then and it has been going very well and been extremely beneficial  financially to my family. I still work full time as a Special Education teacher in east Salinas but doing both jobs has been easier than I once thought. Thank you for all of your insight and training that made this possible.”

 

“Hello Ms. Tamara, update on this case, the attorney for the NCP wanted to see all documents and I did get the NCP to complete and sign the documents for the attorney’s. The exchange takes place at the sheriff’s station, four hour weekly visit which include one hour at the library for home work which is directly across from the sheriff’s station and the balance of time at park or Chuck E Cheese, etc. (10 yr. old boy)The attorney said it was an unusual case but all is well.” –J Pete.

 

Why do you want to become a visitation monitor? “To help my husband. He trained with you 2 years ago and he has 5 clients now and scheduling with just 1 Monitor is getting very difficult. I want to help where I can so we can continue to grow.” –L Retig.

 

“I have had three clients since your August 2014. One on Sundays for three hours, another on Monday for 2 hours, and another for 2 hours on Tuesday. Business, life, and God have been good to me. Thank you for everything :)” — Bree S.

 “Hello from San Diego. I finally got started after getting my son off to college and managing a full-time job and now I have 2 clients; one of them is 10 hours a week. WOW!” — Zanna S

“I just want to say, Thank You, Ms. Tamara Daniels for encouraging me to take your training class. I feel I have found my niche. Your training was exceptional and your system really works if you just follow the steps you provided us with. I took your class in August 2014 and have received many inquiries. I have 2 solid clients and 3 additional in the process. Thank you so much.” –Kathy A.

“Thank you for an amazing class! What could have been a boring and tedious process was made interesting mixed in with some levity.” –Teri Rappaport