Divorce and separation can be difficult for a family, especially when children are involved. When the end of a relationship is filled with anger and resentment. Children are often stuck in the middle without a clear picture of what their relationship is or should be with each parent. Fortunately, the Johnson County court system offers a unique opportunity to help parents resolve their conflict and allow children to develop strong bonds with both parents.
Court Services’ Supervised Visitation is a court-ordered, 12-week program that provides a consistent opportunity for children and their parent(s) to have safe and supportive contact in a structured setting. Parents and children, who have been court ordered to have only supervised contact, are given an opportunity to share time together each week in a safe and neutral setting. This often involves a child or children visiting with their non-custodial parent, with whom they may not have had much contact. This program is completely dependent on volunteers such as Johnson County employee Lynette Goodwin. Her full-time job is to serve the county as an access control specialist, in the Department of Technology and Innovation, but she also serves the county through the visitation program.
“I see the children come in. They don’t know the other parent, and they’re actually kind of fearful of them at first, but after a couple of weeks, you see the child, they run up to the parent and hug him,” Goodwin said.” They want to be picked up. It’s just very rewarding to see that happen.”
Goodwin and other volunteers ensure children’s safety, while also addressing the court’s need for objective information. They facilitate visits that focus on the best interests of children. They observe parent-child interactions and submit written reports to the court. Each volunteer gives between one to three hours per week, for 12 weeks per family.
“By the volunteers sharing their time in this program, they help us to provide a safe opportunity for children to maintain their relationship with a parent, even during the toughest of times,” said Erin Poolman, director of Domestic Court Services. “Without the generous and ongoing involvement of our volunteers, this program could not function.”
Additional volunteers are needed for the visitation program. Goodwin encourages those who have a passion for helping families to get involved.
“It’s just so beneficial for them, and I would encourage anyone that loves little children or has been in a similar conflict to participate in the program,” Goodwin said. “It’s very rewarding for the families and yourself.”
To get involved, contact Poolman as soon as possible for an interview and training. She can be reached at 913-715-7481, or by email at Erin. Poolman@jocogov.org. Learn more about the program. The next visitation session begins April 9.