A place to safely hand over chil­dren

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

The hor­ri­fy­ing death of Prince McLeod Rams de­scribed in re­cent Post edi­to­ri­als high­lights a se­ri­ous and some­times lethal gap in Mont­gomery County ser­vices for fam­i­lies in the throes of child abuse and domestic vi­o­lence.

Mont­gomery County has no visi­ta­tion cen­ter that judges can or­der par­ents to use in hand­ing off their chil­dren for cus­tody vis­its, un­der the watch of trained third par­ties, and pro­vid­ing su­per­vised vis­its that keep fa­thers in their chil­dren’s lives while of­fer­ing the pro­tec­tion some chil­dren des­per­ately need.

We can’t pre­tend that it is al­ways in “the best in­ter­est of the child” when a judge grants a pro­tec­tive or­der to safe­guard a domestic vi­o­lence vic­tim and her chil­dren but also or­ders that the child im­me­di­ately be­gin un­su­per­vised multi-day vis­its with a fa­ther who has just dis­played phys­i­cal vi­o­lence within his fam­ily. A visi­ta­tion cen­ter can, at least par­tially, pro­tect chil­dren and re­duce the mother’s and child’s fear. It can give the abuse vic­tim a more real­is­tic op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate a safe home for her­self and her chil­dren.

We need both a visi­ta­tion cen­ter all par­ties can af­ford and judges who will or­der fam­i­lies to use it. Both can play cen­tral parts in a broader plan to pre­vent an­other lo­cal fa­ther from harm­ing or even killing his child dur­ing an un­su­per­vised visit.

A visi­ta­tion cen­ter would pro­vide a haven for abused women who share cus­tody.

Lau­rie Duker, Sil­ver Spring The writer is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Court Watch Mont­gomery.

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