Endless $tupidity: domestic violence victim advocacy for supervised visitation centers
Is there some reason that anti-dv advocates just can't get it? Is there some reason that researchers and activists keep recommending this idiocy? It's a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad idea. Why:
(1) Supervised visitation cannot continue indefinitely, and controlling, violent, or child molesting parents aren't going to change. So what is the point? (No. "Anger management" therapies don't work.) It's not a child custody solution for abusers. It's not a solution for children who have 5, 10 or 18 years left in their childhoods. It's a band-aid for 10 weeks, or 6 months, or whatever, and then the abusive parent will most likely go back to court, after behaving "safely" or "nicely" in the presence of supervisors, and get unsupervised visitation. The supervised visitation center will have made money, the parents will have lost money, the litigation will have remained open, the abusive parent will be even more angry and resentful, additional therapies and interventions will be recommended and tried (all as the abuse fades into the past and claimed irrelevancy), and overall, the entire situation will be even more miserable than it was before for the victims. [See comment by JG]
(2) If it is to be some kind of extended supervised visitation, then it also chains the victim family to the geographical area where the perpetrator is located in order to further what are usually non-beneficial visitation rights. The battered mother cannot relocate for job or family support, and while getting no real parenting help, and having to do it all, now also has an often inconvenient and intrusive visitation schedule to adhere to (not to mention what this does to the child's life). The parent in supervised visitation isn't "parenting". Someone else is doing all the parenting. Maybe there's a rationale for this kind of thing when the State removes someone's children into foster care, and the parent is working out the parent's substance abuse issues, but otherwise? Children don't need visitation with violent or molesting parents. If they already have one safe caregiving parent, and the State is not involved, they simply don't need this. And if we're talking about a parent who is merely negligent but not violent or intentionally abusive, and it's a custody issue between two parents of young children, well, then the competent parent can "supervise" in a more natural visitation setting in one or the other parent's home or on outings until the children are old enough that the lack of judgment of the parent needing supervision isn't an issue. That's going to be way better as well for the children and their relationship with the supervised parent.
(3) Once supervised visitation professionals or institutions invest in facility and marketing to do this work, they become "stakeholders" whose most immediate concern will be the need to pay their bills and salaries, further their business interests, and expand. Doesn't matter whether it's a private business or a government budget. Doesn't matter whether it's a dv activist organization or a "nonpartisan charity". Once the system and facility and employees with salaries are in place, it looks for continuing customers. There's going to be a limit to the number of abusers, and perhaps some competition as well, so what will happen next is marketing, i.e. making a market, i.e. expanding the market. The cross-pollinating professionals they work with, the inter-disciplinary group associates and referral sources, such as custody evaluators and judges, will start sending them new kinds of business. Soon, supervised visitation gets recommended for all kinds of pretextual reasons. Such as "therapeutic visitation", and "reunification counseling", and "parenting training", and as punishment for parents who badmouth each other, and for "evaluation" purposes (as if any parenting could possibly be evaluated in such an artificial setting.)
(4) Over the past two decades, supervised visitation centers have been established by abuser lobbies and parental alienation proponents, psych and interdisplinary trade promotion groups, and money-grubbing mental health professionals who can't make a go of practice without glomming captive divorce court litigants -- and who for some goddamn reason are always more clever than victim advocate groups. Once they have opened up their visitation centers, they commence doing what entrepreneurs will do: market their services, concoct new services and programs, network, and promote themselves (which in the case of these ill-advised ideas, also frequently includes getting -- and justifying and maintaining -- some amount of charitable or government funding.)
(5) It's yet another big waste of the family's money and children's college funds via "therapeutic jurisprudence". Because of the need to keep the facility going, and because of the lucrative therapeutic referral work, overwhelmingly, what has happened in recent years is that perfectly acceptable parents are being ordered into supervised visitation schedules for some of the most frivolous reasons. Especially those who can pay. And the whole idea just increases the load on the court system by keeping the matter alive and encouraging judges to put the decision-making off for another day. Cases under endless management, in endless float.
Note that I didn't say that third-party supervised visitation was "never" appropriate. Supervised visitation may sometimes have its limited uses, but ONLY as a temporary arrangement. (I hesitate to admit this, because when it comes to therapeutic inverventionism in the court system, like potato chips, it seems that if you try to have just one...) One legitimate use of supervised visitation would be for times when truly serious abuse allegations have been levied against a parent, to last until a civil or criminal hearing can be held to render findings on the truth or falsity of the allegations (following which, if they're true, there should be NO visitation).
Another limited use might be as a temporary arrangement during times when a parent is unable to exercise unsupervised visitation but reasonably is expected to be able to do so after a short transition or learning period, e.g. a young unwed father and an infant he needs to learn how to care for, or e.g. a parent who for some reason has not been in the picture and needs to transition into a relationship with a child, AND ALSO, in these latter examples when there is some very, very, VERY good reason the other parent in fact is not appropriate as the "supervisor". (The to-be-supervised parent's ego does not constitute a good reason, any more than it would in the de facto "supervision" of an intact family.)
So in limited situations, a child body guard or nanny parent's helper type of supervisor might have its uses. But not where there is a violent or abusive parent. Certainly not in a case like this one. (Case worker in Palm Beach supervised visitation center talked on the telephone while father molested child.) And this one is even worse (Washington father hatchet-chopped his young sons before setting house on fire while useless superviser sat outside in her car.)
What happens if there is a shortage of visitation supervisors, or no supervised visitation centers? That's easy. Parents who are not dangerous won't have to suffer this nonsense. And parents who are dangerous won't get visitation. As they shouldn't in the first place. Supervised visitation is not for the benefit of abuse victims. It's for the benefit of abusers, and for the benefit of therapeutic jurisprudenchers who make money off of the idea. Stop it. Stop it now.
This webpage was inspired by the unbelievably bad methodology and recommendations in the taxpayer-funded psychology-in-court-promoting Child Custody Evaluators' Beliefs About Domestic Abuse Allegations: Their Relationship to Evaluator Demographics, Background, Domestic Violence Knowledge and Custody-Visitation Recommendations, Final Technical Report Submitted to the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice (October 31, 2011). Principal Investigator: Daniel G. Saunders, Ph.D., Co-Investigators: Kathleen C. Faller, Ph.D. and Richard M. Tolman, Ph.D. University of Michigan, School of Social Work, 1080 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor MI 48109-1106 USA. ("This project was supported by Grant No. 2007-WG-BX-0013 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Findings and conclusions of the research reported here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice.") Kathleen Faller -- really? OMG. (And I don't believe for a second that all these battered women championed more expensive and time-consuming evaluations and supervised visitation. Talk about your cherry-picking...)
Addendum by JG:
"Supervised visitation also is used as a first step toward a custody switch away from protective mothers to abusive fathers.
"If his visitation goes well, that's used as 'evidence' that he did nothing wrong in the first place, and that the accusations against him were the result of parental alienation by the mother. His unsupervised visitation is restored, following which further complaints by the mother and/or child result in the mother losing custody to the abuser, with and without the application of additional lucrative court-ordered 'therapeutic interventions'.
"If the visitation doesn't go well, then the difficulty with the visits is blamed on resistance and interference by the mother. This accomplishes two things: it creates an alibi for the professionals for their failed 'reunification therapy' or wrong recommendations in urging his continuing visitation and involvement, and it creates the same desired end-result of blaming the mother.
"Many mothers who once laid allegations of abuse (or just believed the allegations of their children or others) ultimately find the tables turned on them and that they are the ones in supervised visitation and various court-ordered therapies. After this, they frequently lose custody -- and not infrequently, all contact with their children -- when they cannot any longer afford the cost of these 'therapeutic interventions', or are found to have been 'noncompliant', or the abusive fathers are granted permission to relocate by the court (which seems to be much more readily permitted by the courts for fathers than by mothers.)"