In October, 2010, the Judge Ben Gordon Jr. Family Visitation Center in northwest Florida lost its $350,000 grant because the Obama administration decided that it wanted the money to go to organizations that had never received this federal money. This grant, called the Safe Havens Grant, was an award provided by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The center was two years into the five year grant when the money was withdrawn. This loss means that the center’s 2011 operating budget has been almost cut in half.
The visitation center provides safe visits for families that deal with several issues; amongst them are substance abuse and mental health.
Sharon Rogers, executive director of the center said the following in regard to the loss, “It’s going to be a strain. It’s a loss for the whole community.”
Because of the reduction in funds, the center has closed its Crestview office, thereby leaving families with the Shalimar or DeFuniak Springs locations. When the Crestview office closed it had 12 active cases.
Rogers said that efforts were made to move the families to DeFuniak or Shalimar, but that the move was “unreasonable” and for the children she thought it would be “burdensome.”
In any case, Rogers fears that given the loss of the Crestview office, family visitations will be unsafe or will not take place at all.
Rogers said that children in foster care go to their facilities. She also said, “Straight off domestic violence injunctions, they’ll come to us.”
Another thing the visitation center does is the monitoring of court ordered parent-child exchanges in custody cases. During the past year the agency managed 2,349 visits and exchanges at its three sites.
Rogers pointed out, “Children generally love their parents no matter what they’ve done. When they don’t see them, not only do they worry about them, but they lose that...strength of family.”
Because of the withdrawal of money, the center will begin charging families for the visits. The charges will be based on a sliding scale.