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Office on Violence Against Women



Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program

Program Brief

INTRODUCTION
The Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program) provides an opportunity for communities to support the supervised visitation and safe exchange of children in situations involving domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. Studies have shown that the risk of violence is often greater for victims of domestic violence and their children after separation from an abusive situation.(1) Even after separation, batterers often use visitation and exchange of children as an opportunity to inflict additional emotional, physical, and/or psychological abuse on victims and their children. Visitation and exchange services provided through the Supervised Visitation Program should reflect a clear understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking; the impact of domestic violence on children; and the importance of holding offenders accountable for their actions.

SCOPE OF PROGRAM

The scope of the Supervised Visitation Program is defined by the following statutory considerations and minimum requirements.  Applicants must address these considerations and requirements in the Project Narrative section of the application.

By statute 42 U.S.C. 10420 (a), funds under the Supervised Visitation Program may be used for the following purposes:

  • Provide supervised visitation and safe exchange of children by and between parents in situations involving domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or stalking;
  • Protect children from the trauma of witnessing domestic or dating violence or experiencing abduction, injury, or death during parent and child visitation exchanges;
  • Protect parents or caretakers who are victims of domestic and dating violence from experiencing further violence, abuse, and threats during child visitation exchanges; and
  • Protect children from the trauma of experiencing sexual assault or other forms of physical assault or abuse during parent and child visitation and visitation exchanges.

The following statutory considerations will be taken into account when awarding grants:

  • The number of families to be served by the proposed visitation programs and services;
  • The extent to which the proposed supervised visitation programs and services serve underserved populations;(2)
  • The extent to which the applicant demonstrates cooperation and collaboration with non-profit, nongovernmental entities in the local community served, including the state or tribal domestic violence coalitions, state or tribal sexual assault coalitions, faith-and/or community-based shelters, and programs for domestic violence and sexual assault victims; and
  • The extent to which the applicant demonstrates coordination and collaboration with state and local court systems, including mechanisms for communication and referral.

Minimum Requirements
Under 42 U.S.C. 10420(c), all applicants for the Supervised Visitation Program must:

  • Demonstrate expertise in the area of family violence, including the areas of domestic violence or sexual assault, as appropriate;
  • Ensure that any fees charged to individuals for use of programs and services are based on the income of those individuals, unless otherwise provided by court order;
  • Demonstrate that adequate security measures, including adequate facilities, procedures, and personnel capable of preventing violence, are in place for the operation of supervised visitation programs and services or safe visitation exchange; and
  • Prescribe standards by which supervised visitation or safe visitation exchange will occur.

Program Limitations
Grant funds may not be used for certain activities. Prohibited activities include but are not limited to the following:

  • Lobbying, or lobbying - related activities;
  • Fundraising;
  • Research projects;
  • Therapeutic visitation;
  • Parent Education/Batterer Intervention Programs;
  • Individual and group/family counseling; and
  • Physical modifications to buildings, including minor renovations.

Ensuring victim safety is a guiding principle underlying this Program. Experience has shown that certain practices may compromise victim safety rather than enhance it. Certain responses by the authorities may have the effect of minimizing or trivializing the offender's criminal behavior. Accordingly, consistent with the goals of ensuring victim safety while holding perpetrators accountable for the criminal conduct, applicants are strongly discouraged from proposing projects that include any activities that may compromise victim safety, such as the following:

  • Mediation, alternative dispute resolution, or family counseling as a response to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
  • Offering perpetrators the option of entering pre-trial diversion programs;
  • Batterer intervention programs that do not use the coercive power of the criminal justice system to hold batterers accountable for their behaviors; and
  • Provision of services on the condition that victims seek protection orders, counseling, or some other course of action with which they disagree.

Program Limitations
Grant funds may not be used for certain activities. Prohibited activities include but are not limited to civil legal assistance for the following:

  • Alleged batterers or, in the case of mutual arrest, the primary aggressor.
  • Law reform initiatives, including but not limited to appellate litigation.
  • Tort cases
  • Child sexual abuse cases
  • Cases involving the child protection system
  • Criminal defense of victims charged with crimes
  • Victim service agency employee cases

PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY
By statute, eligible entities for the Supervised Visitation Program are states,(3) Indian tribal governments, and units of local governments. Applicants must enter into or expand the scope of existing contracts and cooperative agreements with public or private nonprofit entities, including faith-based and community organizations, to provide supervised visitation and safe visitation exchange of children in situations involving domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.  All applicants are required to enter into a collaborative working relationship with state or local courts and a faith and/or community-based nonprofit, nongovernmental domestic violence or sexual assault victim services organization that represents the views and concerns of domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

Units of Local Government
For the purposes of this Program, a unit of local government is any city, county, township, town, borough, parish, village, or other general-purpose political subdivision of a State(4); an Indian tribe that performs law enforcement functions as determined by the Secretary of the Interior; or, for the purpose of assistance eligibility, any agency of the District of Columbia government or the United States Government performing law enforcement functions in and for the District of Columbia or any Trust Territory of the United States.  Local courts, police departments, pre-trial service agencies, district or city attorneys’ offices, sheriffs’ departments, probation and parole departments, shelters, nonprofit, nongovernmental victim services agencies, and universities are not considered units of local government for the purposes of this grant program unless they meet the “unit of local government” definition under 42 U.S.C. § 3791 (see footnote 3 below).  Applications from typically “non-eligible” entities that want to assert “unit of local government” under 42 U.S.C. § 3791 must include proof of such status.  These agencies or organizations may administer grant funds and assume responsibility for the development and implementation of the project, but they may not apply directly to OVW for funding support.

Indian Tribes
For the purposes of this Program, Indian tribe is defined as any tribe, band, pueblo, nation, or other organized group or community of Indians, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation (as defined in or established under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, 43 U.S.C. §1601 et seq.), that is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians (25 U.S.C. § 450b (e). Any applicant representing a consortium of tribal governments and/or organizations must submit a resolution from the constituent tribal governments and/or organizations supporting the application.

For more information about the Legal Assistance for Victims Grant Program, please contact:

Office on Violence Against Women (OVW)
800 K Street, N.W., Suite 920
Washington, D.C. 20530
Phone: 202-307-6026
Fax: 202-307-3911
TTY: 202-307-2277
Website: www.usdoj.gov/ovw


Footnote

1. Jaffe, P.G., “Children of Domestic Violence: Special Challenges in Custody and Visitation Dispute Resolution.” In J. Carter, C. Heisler, & M. Runner (Eds.), Domestic Violence and Children: Resolving Custody and Visitation Disputes, A National Judicial Curriculum (San Francisco: Family Violence Prevention Fund), pp. 22-30.
2. The term “underserved populations”  (42 U.S.C.§ 13925(a)(33) ) includes populations underserved because of geographic location, underserved racial and ethnic populations, populations underserved because of special needs (such as language barriers, disabilities, alienage status, or age), and any other population determined to be underserved by the Attorney General.
3. For the purposes of this grant program, a state is defined to include all states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
4. As defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3791, “unit of local government” also includes any law enforcement district or judicial enforcement district that is established under applicable State law and has the authority to, in a manner independent of other State entities, establish a budget and impose taxes.


Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program

Guiding Principles for Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program


Safe Havens Demonstration Initiative

In fiscal year 2002, the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) developed and implemented a four-year demonstration initiative to examine promising practices in the field of supervised visitation and safe exchanges. OVW awarded grants to four demonstration sites: the Bay Area, California; the City of Chicago, Illinois; the City of Kent, Washington; and the State of Michigan. The demonstration sites identified and implemented promising practices, developed national standards and protocols, implemented enhanced security measures, expanded community partnerships, and created specialized services for victims and their children within targeted communities. For additional information about the Safe Haven Demonstration Initiative, visit http://www.praxisinternational.org/pages/visitation/demonstrationinitiative.asp



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