The 4-1-1 on Family Access Services: Featuring Stacey Ashton
Safe visitation is something that you don’t often know about until you need to know. Visitation and monitored-exchanges occur when there are concerns for a child’s safety, or well-being to ensure that a child can maintain contact with a parent in a safe environment. Visitation offers support to families who have been exposed to family violence or are struggling with volatile custody situations. YW Calgary, through our Family Access Services provides an opportunity for children to visit with the non-custodial parent in a safe and secure environment. We wanted to get to the meat of what visitation is, what Family Access Services does and why it’s a critical service to Calgarians, we spoke with Stacey Ashton who is the supervisor of Family Access Services and Child Support Programs.
- For those who don’t know, what is Family Access Services?
We recently changed the name of our Visitation Services program to Family Access Services to better reflect the services we provide. Family Access Services provides supervised visitation to families. Supervised visitation is contact between a parent and child that takes place in the presence of a qualified staff member who is responsible for ensuring the safety of all involved. The service also offers monitored exchange in which staff will supervise the exchange of the child for unsupervised access visits in situations where there is conflict that might arise during the exchange.
- Why is it important to families in Calgary?
Services like Family Access allow children and non-custodial parents to maintain contact with each other throughout difficult family transitions. Children deserve to have a relationship with both parents, and Family Access Services encourages this relationship by offering a safe, neutral and healthy environment for relationship building without the risk of conflict. During times of family, transition finances can be an issue and as such program fees are determined on a sliding scale. Fees will never be a barrier to receiving services with Family Access Services.
- What are the benefits of the program?
All family members will find safety, support and enjoy reduced stress and anxiety. Non-custodial parents and their children will have the opportunity to foster healthy relationships and parents do not have to have contact with one another to meet the requirements for visitation or exchange.
- Can you describe a little bit about what happens during a visit?
Visits are supervised by trained staff whose purpose is to facilitate a safe and positive visit between parent and child. Staff will connect with parents to build on parenting skills and provide information and support before the visits. Our visits are centered around building relationships through play. During a typical visit, parents and their children may play board games, participate in active play such as dress up and puppet shows, create crafts with the multitude of craft supplies available or just sit together, snuggle and read.
- What do you believe is the most common misconception?
One of the common misconceptions is that clients must be court ordered to utilize our services. However, we are a voluntary service meaning that as long as both parties are in agreement, they can use our services. We also hear misconceptions about the length of our wait list. While we do often have a wait list for our program the length of time on the list is conditional on factors such as how soon both parents contact the program to register, if there is space in the program and the schedule required. While we cannot estimate an exact wait time due to these factors, we encourage parents on our wait list to contact us periodically to check on their status.
- What would you like to tell Calgarians about family access?
Family Access Services is a vital service that provides support to families during difficult family transitions. Needing supervised visitation or monitored exchange services should not be viewed as a negative thing, rather a positive intervention required to ensure the safety of all family members while family conflict or other safety issues are ongoing.
To contact the YW Family Access Services program, please call 403-206-2767.