In domestic violence situations, visitation and exchange of children is a very dangerous time. Knowing that the custodial parent is obligated to honor the court order allowing visitation, the abuser often uses the opportunity to continue to stalk, abuse and to terrorize the victim/custodial parent.
Knowing this, Hope House started the Guardian Program in November of 2002. Our program is designed so that visits and exchanges are safe for everyone. The custodial and the non-custodial parents arrive separately, park in separate parking lots, and leave at different times so that there can be no opportunity for abuse or stalking to occur.
The program consists of a Program Coordinator, therapists, and an off-duty police officer who is there to ensure everyone’s safety.
The program has three components:
1) The exchange of children when there is no court order for supervised visits. This most often occurs Wednesday evenings, and/or Friday evenings for weekend visits with the kids returning on Sunday. In exchanges the children are taken from the custodial parent to the non-custodial parent by the staff person; the parents never interact.
2) When the court has ordered the visits to be supervised, the program is able to offer two levels of supervised visits.
a. The first is less intensive and can be offered in a group setting with other families.
b. In more severe situations, a judge may order that the non-custodial parent can’t be around any other children. In those situations, the visit would be limited to just the one family.
The Guardian Program has offered safety, support and hope to hundreds of children as they visit with their non-custodial parent. It gives them the opportunity to begin the healing process, and if they desire, to rebuild a relationship with the offending parent; the choice is theirs.