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Safe Havens: Lessons From a Decade of Change

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While the need for supervised visitation and exchange for victims of domestic violence and their children had long been recognized, the Safe Havens Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Program (Safe Havens Program) provided a key opportunity to expand services available and to do so in a way that accounted for the realities of domestic violence. By focusing on the realities of domestic violence post-separation, this program has led to a significant shift in how those services are offered.

For nearly 15 years, communities have worked diligently to build supervised visitation and safe exchange centers that focus on how to provide a safe and meaningful service to families who had experienced domestic violence. The many individuals, organizations, national training, and technical assistance providers, and supervised visitation centers that have done this work have not only provided the services but also provided an important shift in philosophy and practice in the supervised visitation and exchange field. This document celebrates their work and captures the lessons learned.

This retrospective honors the life and contributions of Ellen Pence (1948-2012). Many of the innovative changes in practice that we see today rest on her bold and thoughtful challenge to visitation service providers and their partners to look at how the work was being done and who benefited—and who was harmed, however unintentionally. “We risk failing children if our interventions are wrapped in claims of ‘neutrality’ that protect us from facing the ugly and complex realities of violence in their lives and those of their mothers,” we hear Ellen remind us.