The Supervised Access Program has been expanding throughout the years, offering safe, supervised visits and exchanges for families facing difficult periods following a separation or divorce.
Supervised visits and exchanges are designed to ensure that children can have safe, conflict-free access to parents or relatives during a time of conflict or transition.
“It’s great for the kid,” said Karyn Haney, coordinator for the Northwestern district. “They get to visit with parents that they wouldn’t otherwise perhaps get to visit or see.”
Haney has been told that families facing separation have had no choice but to arrange visits or exchanges at gas stations or grocery stores in the past, which aren’t particularly safe. That’s where staff from this program come in, she says.
“We provide that safe space and scheduling for that non-residing parent to visit their children,” she said, explaining that the “residing parent” is often the one with custody over the child, whereas the “non-residing parent” is the one without custody.
Interactions between the parties are documented by staff, who are trained to remain neutral in their documentation, and in-person supervised visits are typically one to two hours, with a 15-minute stagger-rule between client arrivals and departures to avoid interaction between clients.
In 2019, the Community Support Centre, located at 53 Arthur Street in Dryden, assumed responsibility for the Supervised Access Programs.
Sites are located in Fort Frances, Dryden, and a recently added site in Kenora. Each site is equipped with a family room, kitchenette, living area containing a variety of children’s toys and games. Clients are welcome to prepare a meal or game to enjoy together, watch movies or simply sit and connect.
The Supervised Access Program was initially brought forward via a proposal from the Kenora-Rainy River Districts Child and Family Services, with the intention to provide parental access to children when one or both of the parents were incarcerated or considered high-risk.
Haney said the program has since expanded to include situations involving divorce, separation, or instances where meeting and exchanging the child could potentially escalate due to emotional differences.
Haney emphasized that the program is a great fit for anyone who may be facing a situation where they are unable to visit their children, whether it is an uncle, aunt, grandparent, or guardian.
Impacted greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic, the program developed virtual visits and continues to use them today.
“They work really well for clients residing in different cities or towns,” Haney said. “The staff join the visit and they have the capability to remove a participant into a separate room if redirection in the conversation was needed.”
She added that virtual visits are supervised through Zoom conference calls where the 15-minute stagger-rule applies as well, to avoid unwanted interaction between clients.
The yearly costs of the program are minimal, based on a sliding scale and considerate of household incomes.
Fees are waived for homes with an income between 0 to $29,000, for an income between $30,000 to $44,999 there is a fee of $15, between $45,000 to $59,000 there is a fee of $30, and incomes greater than $60,000 pay a fee of $50 per year.
The service can be used for regular visits or as a transitory avenue to independent visits. Both parties have to agree to participate in the program, said Haney, who added that the intake process includes a meeting with both parties, where personal matters are discussed and paperwork reviewed, and a separate child orientation.
“And that’s just answering any questions that children may have and to make them comfortable with the staff and process,” she said. “I believe it’s a huge benefit for the children.”
To contact Haney for more information on the program and how to apply, call 807-274-0110 or email at email@example.com.