by: Haley Holstein

Several years ago, as a naïve and inexperienced foster parent, I learned the definition of the term “supervised visit.”  As the years went by, I began to truly understand the reality of supervised visits in Northwest Arkansas–not just in dependency neglect cases, but in a much bigger way.  The seed that was planted then has now grown into the launch of a new nonprofit. I’m excited to announce that Bridges Family Center is opening in August of 2017 in Fayetteville! Our mission is to safely unite children and parents during difficult and challenging family life transitions. Bridges takes a child-centered approach, and focuses on the child’s well-being during supervised visits or safe exchanges.

Our visit rooms are decorated as inviting family rooms. Families may borrow games, puzzles, toys, art and craft supplies from our play room to use during their visits. Bridges encourages family bonding through age-appropriate developmental play. Families may share a meal or snack together. Our goals are for the children to feel safe, for the children to enjoy the visit, and to strengthen the relationship between child and parent. Bridges will provide services to children from birth to age 18.

Supervised visits may be needed for several reasons. For instance, a noncustodial, biological parent could be court-ordered to be monitored during visits for the child’s safety. Bridges will accept local court referrals in cases of domestic violence, custody & divorce cases, or Family in Need of Services (FINS) cases. A trained, professional monitor is present for the child’s safety, as well as for court reporting. Bridges will also incorporate supportive services to assist the parent and prevent the need for future social services.

Bridges also provides visit rooms for pre- or post-adoption situations. A pre-adoption visit with a child and the matched adoptive parent(s) may be done at our private and secure location. Bridges will also assist in post-adoption visits with significant individuals to the child, such as a biological grandmother or previous foster parents. These visits may not require professional monitoring; however, monitoring is now an available option. Bridges will offer privacy, security and sensitivity during these visits that currently occur in very public places.

Bridges hopes to lower the anxiety and stress of everyone by providing a calm setting in a neutral location. Safe exchanges can be used when parents have an existing no-contact order or a restraining order to stay physically apart.  Sometimes parents choose exchange services to prevent the child from witnessing their own conflict during separation, custody cases, or after a divorce. Bridges will handle the exchange so the adults have zero contact and the child has a conflict-free exchange.

Bridges will also offer parenting classes on various topics to strengthen families in need. Nurturing parenting, nutrition, discipline and other protective factors will be conducted on-site by certified trainers. Classes will be conducted in small group settings, and centered on the participants successfully completing and retaining the knowledge.

For more information, contact us at 4792316778, email info@bridgesnwa.org or on Facebook @bridgesfamilycenternwa

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