Supervised visit center opens
by BRIAN NADIG
A new center which allows for supervised visits between a non-custodial parent and a child recently opened at the Polish American Association headquarters, 3834 N. Cicero Ave.
The "Supervised Visitations and Safe Exchange Program" is designed to provide a safe environment for children whose parents cannot have contact, often due to an order of protection stemming from domestic violence. The program is intended to help ensure that the child is not put in the middle of the parents’ conflicts.
Not all monitored visits at the center are court-ordered. The program helps parents with other concerns, including those who have been away for years and worry about being alone with their child, visitation coordinator Marta Kromka-Brigagliano said.
At an Oct. 29 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center, attorneys and judges praised the association’s visitation center and said that more facilities are needed in the Chicago area. Illinois Appellate Judge Aurelia Pucinski encouraged the association to investigate opening the center, and a state grant for anti-domestic violence programs paid for the start of the program, according to association officials.
The center has two rooms with a sitting area, a desk and toys. To avoid contact between the parents, they use different entrances to enter and leave the association’s headquarters, and a social worker takes the child to the parent or other relative who does not have custody of the child, director of clinical services Angelika Danek said.
Parents must agree to a set of rules before being allowed to participate in the program, and a worker will take notes of what occurs during the session and make sure that the parent does not ask the child inappropriate questions, Kromka-Brigagliano said. In cases of an order of protection, questions about a parent’s address are off limits, she said.
The program costs about $60 per visit, with a sliding pay scale for low-income families. A clinician who can provide limited therapeutic intervention is available.
While 85 percent of the association’s clients are Polish, a bilingual staff allows the center to offer social services to various ethnic groups, Danek said. The association provides educational programming for immigrants and social and support services for families, including a food pantry, general counseling and low-income rent assistance.
Information about the association is available online at www.polish.org.