May is Supervised Visit Awareness Month, and many human service organizations across the country are pausing to highlight the important role supervised visit programs play in our communities. Supervised visitation has evolved into an important component of our community’s response structure for families experiencing challenging and often traumatic events in which one parent requires supervised contact with the child. The reasons a family member needs supervised visitation are as varied as the individual, but include domestic violence, sexual violence, behavior related to substance use, or endangering other parents or children. Mental health issues are often included. Each Supervised Visiting Provider in Vermont uses a strengths-based perspective to provide opportunities for parents and children to stay in touch safely during the short- and long-term transition. When highlighting this important work , it is instructive to consider the circumstances that have brought supervised visitation services to Addison County.
In the mid-1990s, a father released from prison in Addison County after serving a lengthy period for the attempted murder of his wife immediately sought visitation rights with his two children. The father’s long and deadly criminal record led Addison County Counseling Services, the Parent-Child Center, and community agencies such as WomenSafe to work together to develop an intervention strategy. They determined that our community needed an option to satisfy the father’s legal visitation rights while maintaining the safety of the other parent involved with the children. It has not only helped families but also identified service gaps that continue to put survivors and children at risk unless safe and monitored visitation services exist. Supported by federal grants from the office, in 1998, she created what is now known as WomenSafe’s Supervised Visitation Program (SVP). SVP provides a safe, child-friendly space for parents and children in the Addison County Courthouse so that parents can interact with their children.
The SVP receives high-risk referrals from family court proceedings, the Middlebury District Office of the Department of Children and Families, and the community at large. The primary purpose of each visit is to provide emotionally and physically safe contact between the non-resident (non-custodial) parent and their child. We have set up a service system so that there is no contact between parents. Visits are coordinated and monitored by trained professionals who ensure program guidelines and expectations are followed while supporting parent-child relationships. For more than 20 years, SVP has continued to provide safe parent-child contact for families in Addison County during the COVID-19 pandemic. SVP is celebrating Supervised Visit Awareness Month with fellow visiting programs in Vermont and across the country. For more information about supervised visits in general, see her website at: www.svnworldwide.org To learn more about the Senior Vice President of Addison County, please call. 802-388-6783 Or visit our website at www.womensafe.net/svp.