Although Supervised Visitation Awareness Month, which is May, is drawing to a close, its significance carries through all year long. The Supervised Visitation Network (SVN), an organization of over 500 visitation providers worldwide, adopted the Orange Ribbon Campaign in honor of supervised visitation in May of 2001. The ribbon is meant to raise awareness of the need and impact of supervised visitation.
What is supervised visitation? For families who become involved with child welfare or parents whose children have been temporarily removed from their care, supervised visitation is the court-ordered time families spend together in safe and supervised environment. In many ways, it is the most important service that families can receive while their children are in out-of-home care.
According to SVN, “Supervised Visitation centers exist to provide a safe haven for children during parental visitation. What color signifies safety better than orange? Orange is a bright color used to warn people to watch out and take notice. We want the world to see the orange ribbon and take notice of the thousands of children and families in need of this service.
SaintA’s Family Engagement Program, which is part of the Family Services department, employs the Visit Coaching Model. This builds on parents’ strengths to meet children’s needs and create consistency for families going through this arduous and difficult time. The model includes addressing in visits the needs that are connected to the risks that brought the children into out-of-home care, preparing parents for their child/children’s reactions and how to plan to give their full attention at each visit, helping parents improve on skills already present, and supporting and reminding parents before and after the visits of how to meet the particular needs of their children. Helping parents cope with their own feelings, to become consistent, also is an integral part of the model.
Simply stated, Family Services is dedicated to helping the parent stand in the child’s shoes. Our services remain strength-based and respectful of the family and culture and focused on the children’s needs.
Once a family is assigned a Family Engagement Specialist, that person is the designated visitation worker for the family as long as they are in our services. Family Services remains dedicated to consistency for the family and makes diligent efforts to keep the same person on the case, to build a relationship with that family for the duration of their time with the program.
Most of our supervised visitation or family interactions take place at the Family Center, on N. 88th Street south of Capitol Drive. As a Family Engagement Specialist with SaintA for two years, I have seen many changes in how we facilitate family interactions. I remember a time when family interactions took place at our Summit Place location, on Washington Street in West Allis, in small family rooms. Looking back, I wonder how we even did it! Over a year ago, the Family Center was introduced, and it was a godsend. The rooms were bigger, the space felt more like a home, and there was a kitchen. OK, not at first but eventually. The growth that has occurred at the Family Center has been amazing, especially to those of us who were around before it opened.
The Family Center has strengthened our department and how we support each other. A supervisor always is on duty to help facilitate the families coming in and out and to help support the Family Engagement Specialists to provide a safe and nurturing environment. It is all part of how Family Services provides distinctive, innovative care to the families we serve.
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