Thanks to public support and a grant from the United States Department of Justice, a safe way for visitations and custody exchanges performed in Dawson County is available.
The Supporting Adoption and Fostering Families Together, or SAFFT, House opened its doors March 27.
The building, the second for the organization, provides a safe and secure means for abusive spouses to see or exchange children without endangering the child or the victim spouse.
"Any time a family has a temporary protective order that says supervision is needed, the family will be referred to our center by the court," said Visitation Coordinator Jennifer Springston. "We then do an orientation for both parties involved and decide if it's a case we want to take."
The original SAFFT House opened in early 2009 in Forsyth County and supports neighboring counties including Cherokee, Gwinnett and Fulton.
The organization offers a supervised visitation center, scholarship programs for foster and adopted children, a resource closet, foster and adoptive gatherings including ongoing parent night out events, a domestic violence visitation and exchange program for victims, parenting classes and a Christian mentoring program.
Both locations and the program are funded by the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program through the United States Department of Justice.
"Our program eliminates the need for abusive parents to have to interact with each other when spending time or exchanging children, based on what the court has dictated what they need to do," Springston said.
According to Springston, this can be whether the parents are abusive to each other or the child.
"We have security equipment, cameras in every room to monitor interaction, we have a parent monitor who is trained to sit in on visitations and exchanges to make sure everything is appropriate and that everyone is safe," she said. "We have the batterer come in through the back door of the building and the victim comes in through the front door. The building is divided, so they never see each other."
Springston also said that, while Safe Havens is the only program offered at the Dawson building currently, people are welcome to volunteer at either SAFFT House location.
The Dawson SAFFT House is located at 40 Hightower Pkwy., and will cater to families of Dawson and Hall counties and is open Thursday through Sunday.
For more information, call (770) 886-9505 or visit www.safft.org.