Philosophy of Service
Family Services of Southeast Texas is committed to providing a safe, secure setting in which families with a history of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, child abuse, and/or stalking can access supervised visitation and exchange services.
We believe adult survivors and children should feel and remain safe during visitation and exchange. We recognize and acknowledge the time after separation is the most dangerous for a survivor and his/her children. Therefore, safety is the highest priority for us.
In collaboration with other Southeast Texas human services agencies and resources, Family Services will strive (1) to tailor the supervised visitation and exchange to the unique characteristics and needs of each family; (2) to ensure a holistic response to each family member’s needs; (3) to stop continued abuse of children and adult survivors; and (4) to eliminate the social conditions that cause intimate partner violence.
Respectful and Fair Interaction
Family Services will treat every individual using this program with respect and fairness. Treating the abusive parent fairly and yet holding that parent accountable for his/her behavior is important in creating a safe environment for all families and staff. We believe that if a batterer has a positive reaction to using the visitation center, safety for the children and adult victims will be enhanced.
- Security – the Agency’s facility layout allows staff to prevent parents from visual or audible contact with each other. The Security Guard will “wand” parents as determined by Agency staff. The Security Guard will monitor the waiting rooms, hallway, and visitation rooms. The size and layout of the Supervised Visitation and Exchange facility allow the Security Guard to respond to a call for assistance in under 30 seconds.
- Behavior Assessment – During orientation, all members of the family will receive a behavior assessment. From that assessment, the Agency will determine guidelines and expectations necessary to create a safe environment for the adult victim and the children.
- Intervention/Redirection – Agency staff will intervene only when necessary. If a parent is unwilling to comply after redirection, the visit will be terminated. Family Services of Southeast Texas retains the right to stop the visit at any time if there is an immediate concern for the physical or emotional safety of the child, the custodial parent, the staff or others at Family Services of Southeast Texas.
- Reporting Child Abuse – If a Family Guide has reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected or observes a child being subjected to conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child, a report will be made to Child Protective Services.
- Duty to Warn – Any potential protection order violations or possible threats to safety witnessed by staff before, during, or after service provision will be reported to the party at risk and/or the appropriate law enforcement agency.
- Substance Abuse – Children will not be permitted to visit with a parent or leave Family Services of Southeast Texas with an adult who is obviously under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Law enforcement or Child Protective Services may be notified if necessary.
- Respect Children’s Wishes – Family Services of Southeast Texas will not force a child to visit with a parent or exchange custody to the non-custodial parent. If a child is resistant, Family Services of Southeast Texas staff will attempt to elicit why, negotiate for an adjusted visit/exchange, and comfort the child. If the child still refuses or is visibly upset, the visit/exchange can be canceled. Guides cannot refuse to return a child to the custodial parent.
The Family Services Supervised Visitation and Exchange facility has been designed to prevent parents from visual or audible contact with each other. Parents are assigned separate parking areas, entrances, exits, and waiting rooms as a part of their Parent Service Agreement.
The Custodial Parent and Exchanging/Visiting Parent will arrive at staggered times (minimum of 30 minutes) and at doors as determined during orientation and wait in separate rooms to prevent parents from interacting and to minimize potential harmful contact.
During their respective wait times, Agency staff will meet with both parents to provide appropriate referrals and information. Agency staff will also check in with the children to address their concerns and questions during this time.
The Family Services Visitation and Exchange Program is currently in the pilot stages and is only taking referrals from the 279th District Court and the 317th District Court.