Child throws ball to parent.
Parent catches ball and tosses it back.
Child laughs and runs towards parent.
Parent says, “I’ve missed you so much.”
The dry narrative scribed by a staff member sitting in the corner of a room witnessing the interaction between child and parent is anything but emotionless. In documenting these interactions for court, our goal remains to stay neutral, an unbiased third party facilitating the exchange between a parent that has lost custody of their child and a child that has a fractured relationship with their parent. These weekly interactions are safe spaces for families to rebuild and strengthen their bond.
Radiant Futures’s Safe Accompaniment Family Engagement Program (SAFE) was created to support healthy bonding between the child and the non-custodial parent/guardian while maintaining the safety and inherent dignity of all parties involved. Treating individuals fairly and courteously, as well as recognizing each individual’s right to personal dignity, is a cornerstone to the provision of effective visitation and exchange services.
Additionally, through the SAFE program, we are able to connect participants to other supportive services at Radiant Futures or in the community, as oftentimes, there are other significant factors contributing to the parent’s ability to provide a safe and healthy environment for their child. A graduate from our program, Ashley, lost custody of her 6 year old child, Max. Ashley was unable to secure stable housing, was in-between jobs, and was overcoming drug misuse. After a few visits with Max, Ashley sat down with a SAFE Advocate to learn about other programs that would help in supporting her child. Ashley began attending parenting classes, was connected to a support group, and enrolled in our Key housing program to help find her long-term, stable housing. Ashley was able to secure a job after a few months and never missed a Tuesday visit with Max. When Ashley returned to court to provide an update on her custody case, the judge determined that Ashley had shown significant improvement, and therefore, modified the court order to unsupervised visitation without a monitor.
After a year into a pandemic, Radiant Futures is still able to offer these visits virtually. Maneuvering a video call with a 4-year-old may sound challenging, but these families have been able to keep close even while they are apart. Through interactive activities and storytelling, parents are able to bond with their child, watch them play, laugh and have conversations over a computer screen. This may not be ideal, but the SAFE program is committed to facilitating an environment for these relationships to thrive.