Visitation Center Dracula
by Stan Rains
Federal funding for supervised visitation programs is supposed to be based on substantiated child abuse, not some crap about "best interests of the child." Federal law 42 U.S.C. 2000 h-7 and 2000(d)(2) holds that if a state receives federal funding for any program, it waives sovereign immunity to be sued if it discriminates and violates the Equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. --Bruce Eden, Divorce Reform Coalition of NJ.
If false sex abuse allegations are the "atomic bomb" of custody battles, then supervised visitation is the Dracula. For a father to visit his children at a supervised visitation center in my part of the world, it can cost upward of $300. or more a month. The money is a major drain, but the worst blood letting is the formalized Parental Alienation efforts of the visitation centers.
Falling under the maxim that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," visitation centers subject their "client children" and "visiting" parents to a gamut of demeaning and disruptive bites to the jugular vein. Children are acutely aware of the ever present, note taking case workers and of the cameras located every 10 feet along the walls.
I have seen a parent and child cling to one another and stare back at the narrow eyed, stern visages of several caseworkers studying this parent and child clinging to one another in terror and desperation. They reminded me of two neurotic and traumatized research monkeys reacting to the observations of white frocked researchers, conditioned to the fact that these white coated observers had the power to inflict pain, anguish and even death. With this parent child pair, their desperate, mutual clinging to one another seemed to be viewed negatively by the case workers. The parent and child have not been back to the center since. Was that the death of a parent/child relationship? What crime did that child commit to be subjected to such cruel torture?
Visitation Centers often contract out with State Child Welfare Agencies. These agencies are concerned with creating cases for the Fed's bounty money on child abuse cases 'created' in each state. Child Welfare Supervisors receive pay proportionate to the number of case workers beneath them. The number of case workers for an area are determined by the number of cases 'created.' Child Welfare agencies are known to work with the contractors who assist in validating 'created' cases and who can create new cases. That is a major cause of the intrusive scrutiny at the visitation centers. Are these contract centers concerned with the children or the funding? Money and power have an odd affect on many people.
The demeaning of the "visiting" parent is readily visible from the minute that a person enters the "secured facility" with armed guards, officious case workers with their clipboards and arrogant, domineering managers with business backgrounds--not child development, psychology, or even social work training. The child's impression is that all of these authority figures see Daddy as a serious and dangerous threat. The only time a child sees this type of security is on TV showing prisons filled with bad people. It leaves a child with an impression that their love for Daddy is dangerous and bad, and so is Daddy. And to take it a step further into reality, the natural progression of a child's self worth is that if "Daddy is bad and I love Daddy, then I am Bad". And they wonder why children of "throw away" dads are prone to so many destructive behaviors.
The center's management sets rules to 'train' parents in proper parenting time at the visitation center. This forced, but very unofficial parent training, is based on a business manager's personal experience and idealism, not on the recommendations of any professional knowledgeable in parent/child needs or interactions. The intrusion cuts into the spontaneity and naturalness of a parent/child interaction.
An even greater stressor on the parent/child interaction is the knowledge that a poor review by a case worker, who has no formal training, essentially puts the case worker in the position of complainant, witness, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner of the ability of a parent and child to see each other. Caseworkers, often young, childless, and generally with little or no formal education, correct parents and children alike, openly, for all to hear with their corrections based on personal bias, unresolved issues and idealism. Caseworkers who dislike a parent will let everyone in the facility know by broadcasting through glares, tone, stance, and attitude. Children are very attuned to these things especially from authority figures. Many times the case workers disapproval is rooted in other than professional reasons--appearance and social skills seems to be a major factor.
Intense note taking by the case workers is done to develop negative issues, no matter whether the issues are grounded in reality. These notes are cumulative. So is the effect.
Judges use visitation centers to avoid responsibility. Judges and attorneys use visitation centers to ameliorate their guilt at taking a child's daddy away from the child. Judges, attorneys and Child Welfare use visitation centers to validate their personal agendas more often than the centers are used for the best interest of a child. The child is the last factor of the equation.
How long can a parent or child withstand this steady, relational bloodletting to maintain any kind of healthy relationship? Brad Ingram wrote of his concern that children may loose interest under such pressure and end up with memories of rubber stamp visits instead of a childhood of meaningful memories and experiences with Dad. How long do we have to wait for our children to be allowed to feel they have two parents, not just one parent and a "visitor" with no anchoring relationship? Is it any wonder that America has more police per capita than any other country in the world? Is it any wonder that America has a per capita prison population comparable to the former Soviet Union and its infamous Gulag Archipelago? Stephen Baskerville regularly puts forth the concept that indirectly, and sometimes directly, Fatherhood is a crime in America. If you are a father, you are already a criminal. You just may not have begun your punishment, yet.
The parent/child pair mentioned above in this letter were a mother and her daughter. Did parent/child gender change your view or feelings of that picture? Why? Did gender make it more or less shameful or justifiable? Should any child or parent, male or female, be subject to this kind of cruel and unusual punishment without any conviction of wrong doing? Is motherhood next to be criminalized?
One Reader's Response:
I came across your site today and was compelled to read "visitation center dracula" by Stan Rains.
I was a director of a visitation center and I was shocked by Mr. Rains description of the facility in the article. I would like to point out that not all visitation centers are like that. Our center had no guards, no cameras, and the staff did not walk around in lab coats with clip boards in their hands. our center had a more "playroom" atmosphere with toys and games and craft supplies readily available for the children and their parents. We even tried to have a craft project for the kids and their parent to do at every visit so the children would have something to take home and remember the visit by.
Also, it is important that I use the word "parent" as the majority of the visiting parents at my facility were moms! The visiting parents at my center were generally drug addicts, alcohol abuseres, and alleged physical abusers. We had a review system in place so if a parent didn't seem to need to be there, the courts were notified and other visitation arrangements were made.
Mr. rains also wrote that the staff was under educated and too young to understand. I myself, have a B.A. in sociology and communications with a minor in criminology. Prior to becomming the center's director, I was a probation officer who handled child custody, visitation, and support issues. My staff all had at least a bachlor's degree and experience in social work. Most importantly, we were all parents and we understood the needs of the children to have their mom or dad in their lives and the need for those parents to be in the lives of their kids.
Perhaps the center I ran was the exception, but I think it is important to be fair and to let your readers know that an order to attend supervised visitation does not have to be a "death sentence."
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