Domestic Violence Awareness Month: More Than Supervised Visits, Empowering Kiddos at The Karlis Family Center

Christen Martines | October 1, 2020

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This October, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), Family Tree invites readers to take part by learning more through personal stories, educational topics, and explore the services we provide to survivors and their children. 

The Parenting Time Program at the Karlis Family Center, provides a safe environment for children to spend time with their non-residential parent(s), keeping safety of the child and the survivor parent as the highest priority, through supervised visits and safe exchanges.

The program employs a unique approach to supervised-visitation; the children are empowered to direct what is appropriate and comfortable during the visit.  Parenting Time Program Director, Jen Clouse, shares more about the control each kiddo has over their appointment.

“We know that the children coming into our program have seen, heard and experienced more than their minds can fully process. Some of these children are unsure about beginning visitations with their parents. They tell us things like, “I don’t want my parent to be mad at me at the visit” or “I don’t want my parent to be mean to my brother”.”  In order to provide the child with more confidence and control in this situation, each appointment starts with a kid-intake.

During the intake, each child is shown around the center, which features several kid-friendly rooms, a playground, and plenty of toys.  They are asked what they want to do during the visit and what they want to talk about.  More importantly, the children are asked what they don’t want to do and what is off limits to talk about.  

“We help the children to make their own rules around what they want the visits to look like” says Jen. “We talk about support systems and safe words.  We show the children that they are safe and empowered in our program.  Kid intakes are truly the most important thing that we do.”

According to the National Survey for Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2011, “1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.”

While The Karlis Center provides services to families for many reasons, some of these are rooted in domestic violence situations that can leave children in a state of uncertainty and fear. The team at the Karlis Family Center strives to make children more at ease during what can be a stressful time.

In the last fiscal year, the parenting time program provided 3,176 hours of supervised visitations and did 916 safe exchanges.

How can you help? 

Elevate the voices of survivors #DVAM, #SupportSurvivors, educate yourself on the signs of abuse, and support organizations like Family Tree who take steps every day to end domestic violence.

Also, please stay tuned for more in this series dedicated to Domestic Violence Awareness Month.