“The best parent is both parents,” says Margaret Wuwert, Executive Director of the Children’s Rights Council (CRC). Since 2000, the organization has aimed to “help parents by helping kids.”
High conflict between parents or suspicions regarding a parent’s behavior has led to court orders for supervised or monitored parenting time. This often creates yet another hurdle in the parent-child relationship, making it more difficult for children to spend quality time with both parents.
With three centers – located at Hope United Methodist Church, Faith Lutheran Church and Olivet Lutheran Church – the CRC helps provide children of divorced or separated families with frequent, meaningful and continuing contact with two parents and extended family, which the child would normally have in a traditional “Ozzie and Harriet” household.
“Before we were around, when people wanted to see their kids they might have had to do the exchange at the police station due to high conflict between the parents,” explains Wuwert. Through the CRC, parents can receive supervised (with a third party close by and observing directly the interaction between the parent and child) or monitored visits (visits are observed from a distance with perhaps several visits being conducted simultaneously under the watch of one observer), if necessary as ordered by the court, in a comfortable and home-like environment. “It’s not the same as being in your own home,” says Wuwert, “but we want them to have an atmosphere as close to home as possible.”
Mostly volunteer-staffed, Wuwert says the biggest hurdle for the CRC is funding. The organization receives a small stipend from the Domestic Relations Court, but still critically needs funding for its services. Parents pay for services (a supervised visit costs $50 for three hours), but in many cases, the parents don’t have the money. Despite these financial challenges, Wuwert stresses, “children deserve to see both of their parents.”
Due to funding and space constraints, parents may currently be placed on a waiting list to use the CRC’s services. It may take up to two months until a spot becomes available, but after that, the parents may use the service consistently. Some parents come in once a week; others come in every other week. “We’ll work around any schedule,” says Wuwert.
For many families, the CRC is invaluable. “Most parents are very happy because it demilitarizes the exchanges. The kids are also much calmer.” In some cases, there is a 15-minute waiting period between the drop-off and pick-up so that parents don’t see one another. Wuwert explains that this is also beneficial for the children, who can take a deep breath and enjoy a smooth transition. And the atmosphere makes the experience joyful. “We have a good time here,” says Wuwert.
For more information about the CRC, or to volunteer, call 419-473-8955.