Protecting Kids from Warring Parents

06/03/2020
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When parents are involved in a bitter divorce, children often become the victims on the battleground. A non-profit offers a safe haven for kids while they interact with one parent or another.

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WHEN DIVORCING PARENTS WAR WITH EACH OTHER, THEY SOMETIMES USE THEIR CHILDREN AS WEAPONS. NOW, HELP IS AVAILABLE TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM GETTING HURT IN THE BATTLE. YOU'RE WATCHING THE LOCAL NEWS NETWORK, BROUGHT TO YOU BY BEN FRIHAUF WITH FARMERS INSURANCE OF DURANGO. I'M WENDY GRAHAM SETTLE. A LOCAL NON-PROFIT CALLED FOR THE CHILD NOW OFFERS ADVOCACY SERVICES TO ENSURE THAT CHILDREN'S RIGHTS AND SAFETY ARE PROTECTED WHEN FAMILIES FALL APART. ESTABLISHED IN 2017, THE ORGANIZATION MANAGES THE COURT-APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES PROGRAM AND SUPERVISED EXCHANGES AND VISITS FORMERLY MANAGED BY SOCIAL SERVICES. ITS VOLUNTEERS SERVE AS ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN TO ENSURE THAT THE CHILD DOESN'T BECOME A WEAPON BETWEEN TWO PARENTS OR SUFFER VERBAL OR PHYSICAL ABUSE FROM THEIR PARENTS' ANGER AND FRUSTRATION.
YOU KNOW, WE BELIEVE THAT KIDS DON'T NEED TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR PARENTS' PROBLEMS. AND SO WE WORK WITH HIGH-CONFLICT CUSTODY CASES HERE. IT'S ANYTHING, YOU KNOW, OUR, OUR LIFE IS DIFFICULT, RIGHT? BEING A PARENT CAN BE REALLY HARD. AND WE LIKE TO THINK OF OURSELVES AS KIND OF A SOFT PLACE TO LAND WHEN IT GETS REALLY DIFFICULT. SO THAT CAN BE ANYTHING FROM, YOU KNOW, MOM AND DAD JUST DON'T WANT TO SEE EACH OTHER ANYMORE; A HIGH-CONFLICT CUSTODY CASE WHERE THE KIDS GET DROPPED OFF HERE. THEY HANG OUT WITH US AND THEY GET TO PICK SOMETHING TO LOOK AT A BOOK, TO READ A BOOK TO PLAY WITH. AND THEN 15 MINUTES LATER, THE OTHER PARENT COMES AND PICKS THEM UP. SO THERE'S NO CONTACT AT ALL BETWEEN THE PARENTS AND THE KIDS DON'T NEED TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT. AND THEY CAN JUST MOVE SAFELY BETWEEN EACH HOME AND BE WITH THE PARENTS THAT LOVE THEM. FOR THE CHILD RECRUITS AND TRAINS VOLUNTEERS FOR THE COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES – OR CASA – PROGRAM. WHEN CHILDREN ENTER INTO THE COURT SYSTEM FROM ABUSE OR NEGLECT, HAVE BEEN REMOVED FROM THEIR HOMES OR ARE AT RISK OF REMOVAL, THE COURT APPOINTS AN ADVOCATE TO SERVE AS A TRUSTED ADULT WHO ACTS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD. ADVOCATES WORK WITH FAMILIES IN THE SIXTH AND 22ND JUDICIAL DISTRICTS COVERING SOUTHWEST COLORADO'S FIVE COUNTIES, AND THEY STAY WITH THE CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES UNTIL CHILDREN ARE PERMANENTLY PLACED WITH A CUSTODIAL PARENT OR ARE ADOPTED BY ANOTHER FAMILY. FOR THE CHILD ALSO OFFERS SUPERVISED CUSTODIAL EXCHANGES AND VISITS FOR PARENTS WHO CAN'T OR WON'T SEE THEIR CHILD'S MOTHER OR FATHER BECAUSE OF THEIR CONFLICTS WITH EACH OTHER. IN A SUPERVISED EXCHANGE, CUSTODIAL PARENTS DROP OFF THEIR CHILDREN AT THE ORGANIZATION'S OFFICE WHERE VOLUNTEERS VISIT WITH CHILDREN UNTIL THE NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT COMES BY TO PICK THEM UP 15 MINUTES LATER. AFTER THE VISIT, THE PARENT RETURNS THE CHILD, LEAVES, AND THE CUSTODIAL PARENT RETRIEVES HIS SON OR DAUGHTER. NEITHER MOM NOR DAD CROSS PATHS, AND KIDS DON'T GET CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE OF THEIR ANGER OR FRUSTRATION. SUPERVISED VISITS ARE SCHEDULED FOR 60- AND 90-MINUTE TIME SLOTS IN ONE OF THE COZY SITTING ROOMS AT THE NON-PROFIT'S HEADQUARTERS AT THE INTERSECTION OF FLORIDA ROAD AND COUNTY ROAD 250. THE VISITING AREAS ARE FURNISHED WITH COMFY COUCHES, ROCKING CHAIRS, STUFFED TOYS, ART SUPPLIES, CHILDREN'S BOOKS AND GAMES TO HELP PARENTS BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR CHILD WHILE VOLUNTEERS OBSERVE. THE SUPERVISED EXCHANGES AND VISITS ARE OFTEN COURT-ORDERED, BUT PARENTS DON'T HAVE TO HAVE A COURT ORDER TO USE THE SERVICE. THE SERVICES ARE AVAILABLE TO ANY STRUGGLING PARENTS WHO WANT TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR CHILD WHILE THEY MANAGE THEIR SEPARATION AND DIVORCE. ABOUT 70 FAMILIES USE THE SUPERVISED SERVICES ANNUALLY.
IT'S REALLY HEARTWARMING TO SEE THEM COME FROM A PLACE WHERE THEY, YOU KNOW, OFTENTIMES THEY JUST DON'T KNOW HOW TO INTERACT WITH THEIR CHILD. AND FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, THEY'VE BEEN PUT IN THIS SPOT WHERE SOMEBODY SAYS THEY HAVE TO INTERACT WITH THEIR CHILD WHILE WE WATCH THEM AND TAKE NOTES. AND THAT'S GOTTA BE INCREDIBLY INTIMIDATING TO HAVE SOMEBODY SAY THAT YOU CANNOT PARENT YOUR CHILD. SO WHAT WE LOVE TO SEE IS THEM LEARN NOT ONLY ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN AND DEVELOP A BOND WITH THEIR CHILDREN, BUT TO SEE THEM GROW AS A PARENT THEMSELVES JUST THROUGHOUT THIS PROCESS. SO WHAT WE LIKE TO SEE IS MOVING FROM SUPERVISED VISITS TO THEM, MAYBE DOING THE EXCHANGES, AND THEN WE DON'T SEE THEM ANYMORE. AND THAT'S KIND OF ONE OF THE BEST THINGS TO SEE FAMILIES OUT IN THE COMMUNITY AND KNOW THAT THEY'RE, YOU KNOW, THEY'VE DONE THE WORK AND THEY THEY'RE, THEY'RE ENJOYING THEIR FAMILY AND THEIR TIME TOGETHER.IF YOU'D LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT FOR THE CHILD'S ADVOCACY PROGRAMS, TO VOLUNTEER OR TO SEEK OUT THE AGENCY'S SERVICES, VISIT 4 THE CHILD DOT ORG. THANKS FOR WATCHING THE LOCAL NEWS NETWORK. I'M WENDY GRAHAM SETTLE.

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