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Parenting Time Centers: Working to Provide Options for Safety

May is Supervised Visitation Awareness Month and throughout the country, many human service organizations will pause for a moment to highlight the important role supervised visitation programs play in our communities. Supervised visitation has evolved into a critical component of our community’s response structure for families who have experienced challenging and often traumatic events that have led to one parent needing supervised contact with their children. This month, Emilyn Haugen, Director of Someplace Safe Parenting Time Centers, reflects on the reality and importance of supervised visitation services in our communities.

I think it is fair to say that no parent wakes up one morning thinking, “Gosh, I would love to be supervised while I am with my kids.” With this understanding of how uncomfortable this may be, we have the philosophy that we will always give those we serve our best. What that looks like at Someplace Safe's Parenting Time Centers is by first understanding that we are often interacting with individuals during one of the most challenging times in their lives and also understanding that we simply cannot know how difficult their individual journey is. We provide space for families to be safe and supported during these times.

So, you may be asking, what does it look like when someone makes that initial call for services? First, when someone calls Parenting Time Center (PTC), they are going to be greeted by a warm, friendly, and professional provider who will explain how all of “this” works. Like many other services someone may be seeking, potential clients are asked to fill out and complete initial forms and paperwork to share more about their unique situation and needs. We try to make the process as easy as possible by utilizing an online portal to do so. Individuals can complete the forms right from their own computer or smart phone.

Next, we complete the ever important intake. The intake is where we explain what can be expected from us, as well as what is expected from anyone coming to PTC. We want to be as upfront as possible, so there are no misunderstandings about policies, procedures, and expectations. We also hope to explain what our limitations are, as our providers are not attorneys, nor judges and cannot make decisions about what happens with someone’s referral or Court Order - those decisions are left to those professionals. For the parties doing safe exchanges, we explain the protocol and safety procedures, including how we keep parties separate through staggered arrival times. For adult victims, we talk about what safety looks like for them and how we can benefit their safety planning. For parents who are supervised on site, we talk about how parenting times can be used to maintain or build that ever important connection, as well as the rules and expectations of behaviors while at PTC. After all parties to the case have completed their intake, we open up their case and start offering services.

The beginning of services is the moment where we are seeing families come together; and what a rewarding and amazing feeling that is! It is the reason we were created and do the work we do. Yes, we are here for emotional and physical safety – and yes, we are here to bring families together. Those two goals live simultaneously at PTC. Parents and caregivers come to our Centers for a variety of reasons. It could be allegations that are being investigated through the Courts or other systems, and we are here to maintain the parent-child relationship during the process. It could be that a parent has been victimized by the other parent, and they need a safe, neutral location to keep the parents separate so the children can be exchanged from one parent to the other without concern of contact or conflict. Or, it could be that a parent was kept from their children for a long period of time, and even though this was not their fault, the children need a reintroduction to this parent so they can reestablish that bond before moving forward. There is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ case that comes to PTC. That is why we take the time to ask the questions, get that intake completed thoroughly, and then provide services that meet the needs of those we are serving.

It would be wrong to say that parents are always happy when they come to PTC. Due to the often emotional situations, many are not. We are conscientious of this fact and have made it our goal each and every time we work with a parent to make that uncomfortable situation as comfortable as possible. We can keep children and adult victims safe and still be respectful, thoughtful, and provide really good services. After all, that is what we are here for and that is what we aim to do each and every day, and we are honored to play a part in helping create safer, healthier families and communities!

If you or someone you know are in need of services or more information on Someplace Safe's Parenting Time Centers, contact us at 218-739-3132 or visit our webpage.


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