Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley is an organization that receives funds from the 1 Faith 1 Hope 1 Love campaign. Part of the funds support a Family Visitation Center. The article below first appeared in the Catholic Social Services Winter 2017 Good News magazine.
Erma’s House: Supporting families and protecting children
Keeping children safe has been the mission of Erma’s House Family Visitation Center since its beginning in 1997. The program – which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year (2017) – grew out of the community’s need for a safe, structured environment for children to have scheduled contact and maintain a relationship with their non-residential parents.
The Montgomery County Child Protection Task Force was convened in 1993 in response to the community’s growing concern about child protection issues. In February of 1995, their year-long study resulted in a 90-page report titled “A Community That Supports Families and Protects Children.”
Based on the 56 recommendations in the report, a Child Protection Work Group was formed and began working toward the establishment of a Family Visitation Center. With collaboration and support from community partners, Catholic Social Services was approached to operate the new center.
The intent was to design a program to establish a safe, home-like environment where children could visit with their non-custodial parents in an atmosphere conducive to a nurturing interchange between the parent and child.
The need for supervised parenting may be related to divorce or separation, child abuse or neglect, protection or restraining orders, or other issues where a neutral setting is important to the safety and comfort of the family unit. Erma’s House reduces the potential for physical and emotional harm for both children and parents.
Trained staff and volunteers monitor the interaction between parent and child, observing the visit and keeping a record of activities. The monitor only intervenes if it is considered necessary for the emotional or physical safety of the child.
Erma’s House also offers supervised exchanges for a parent who needs to transfer the child between households without interacting with the other parent. Staff monitors the exchange to ensure the safety of all family members.
To access the services of Erma’s House, a family must be referred by a third party such as Montgomery County Children Services, social workers or mental health professionals, or the Montgomery County Domestic Relations Court or Juvenile Court. At least one parent or guardian must live in Montgomery County.
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