Principle V of the Guiding Principles of the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) states that visitation centers should seek to operate within a community collaborative which has as its goal to centralize safety of child(ren) and adult victims and hold batterers accountable. The community collaborative will strive (1) to ensure a holistic response to each family member’s needs; (2) to stop continued abuse of child(ren) and adult victims; and (3) to eliminate the social conditions that cause intimate partner violence.

The Supervised Visitation Program Philosophy and Perspective

Separation is often the catalyst for long-term safety concerns and potentially dangerous circumstances for child(ren) and adult victims that require appropriate services and community dialogue in order to balance the safety needs of child(ren) and adult victims with parental access to the children. The need for safe visitation and exchange does not exist in isolation of other issues threatening the safety and well-being of individuals using those services, such as substance abuse, poverty, homelessness, mental illness, undocumented-immigrant status, disabilities, functional illiteracy, unemployment or underemployment, gender bias, rural isolation, and other social and cultural differences.

Visitation centers are well positioned to work with the broader community to identify the needs of families and community members in areas fundamental to safety and well-being (e.g., domestic violence and legal advocacy, housing, nutrition, income, employment, education, health, and transportation). The responsibility for balancing safety and access in these situations rests not only with the centers, but also with the communities in which they operate. Therefore, centers should work as part of a broad community network that responds holistically to a family’s range of needs.

Visitation centers provide a service that is part of a larger consortium of services designed to enhance safety and protection for child(ren) and adult victims of domestic violence. To be successful in meeting their mission, centers funded under the Supervised Visitation Program must operate within a collaborative framework that includes a core partnership (state, tribal, or local unit of government, visitation centers, courts, and domestic violence or sexual assault programs) and a community collaborative (other community members and services).

The core partnership is the primary source of information and services surrounding use of visitation centers. Visitation centers receiving funding through the Supervised Visitation Program are required to establish working relationships with each core partner. It is at the core partnership level that important issues such as effective case processing, information exchange, and safe services can be addressed. Cooperation and active participation from each core partner are essential.

The community collaborative refers to a network of resources for child(ren) and adult victims of domestic violence and includes the core partners, social service agencies and other service providers, child welfare agencies, law enforcement, health care systems, faith institutions, neighborhood and cultural associations, community leaders/people of influence, and families who use visitation services and their friends and extended family members. These collaboratives can address systemic, policy, or legal barriers to achieving safety and well-being for child(ren) and adult victims through community-based efforts that prioritize safe and appropriate custody and visitation arrangements; identify barriers to service delivery; reach out to community members not accessing services; support the understanding of the role of visitation centers within the community; participate in community efforts to resolve other issues such as substance abuse, poverty, racism, or gender bias; and identify solutions to service fragmentation.

Family members are often drawn into a complex maze of legal, administrative, and service-oriented processes during the protracted period of determining visitation and custody arrangements. The combined community response to the family can be fragmented, often involving several cases, agencies, and dozens of practitioners. These multiple levels of interventions can contradict one another, be so broad that they miss important opportunities to address victim safety, or actually produce actions that can endanger adult victims. It is the responsibility of the community collaborative to identify and address gaps in services.

Both the core partnership and the community collaborative are instrumental not only in providing safe services for the individuals using visitation centers, but also in identifying and eliminating barriers to achieving safety and stability for child(ren) and adult victims.

Collaboration Specific Resources

    • A Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence by Ellen Pence and Martha McMahon (1997). This article describes the eight aspects of a coordinated intervention model in domestic violence cases and introduces the notion of safety and accountability audits as an assessment planning and reform tool in the criminal justice field. Read this article


    • Access Denied: The Barriers of Violence & Poverty for Abused Women and Their Children’s Search for Justice and Community Services After Separation by Peter Jaffe, Atkinson Foundation (2002). This report develops a comprehensive picture of women’s experiences while leaving abusive relationships and highlights the unique challenges associated with leaving abusive relationships and the gaps in policy and service delivery. Read this report


    • Kent, Washington Safe Havens Demonstration Site Safety and Accountability Audit: Final Report by Praxis International, Inc. (2007). This report explores how a victim of battering, who might benefit from supervised visitation, finds out about it, decides whether or not to use it, effectively communicates that decision to the court, and locates an appropriate visitation program. Read this report


    • Mobilizing Communities to Prevent Domestic Violence by Melanie Shepard (2008). This paper places community mobilization within the context of the Battered Women’s Movement, explores guiding concepts and frameworks for community mobilization, and discusses the challenges of implementing community mobilization strategies. Read this paper


    • Preventing Family Violence: Community Engagement Makes the Difference by P. Catlin Fullwood, Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund) (2002). This report looks at the lessons learned from community-based efforts to counter family violence, focuses on five goals that emerged and that are critical to family violence prevention efforts, includes examples of groups that are addressing each of these goals, and provides a list of practical guidelines for effective community engagement to prevent family violence. Read this report


    • Supervised Visitation: What Courts Should Know When Working With Supervised Visitation Programs by Samantha Moore and Kathryn Ford, Center for Court Innovation (2006). This paper highlights several practices used by supervised visitation programs and the courts and is intended for judges, court personnel, and their community partners in an effort to reduce the risk of violence for survivors and their children. Read this paper