Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published November 27, 2012




Dori Henry
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Bill Toohey
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New Center Gives City Residents Access to Supervised Visitation Services

BALTIMORE, Md. (November 27, 2012) – Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown today joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Acting Director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) Bea Hanson, domestic violence advocates, community members, and state and local officials, to announce the opening of the Baltimore City “Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange” center.

"The opening of Safe Havens is an important step towards our goal of ending domestic violence in every home, and every community, in Baltimore and throughout Maryland," said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. "Thanks to our partners in Federal and Local government, community leaders and advocates, and a dedicated staff, this center will be a place where both parents and children are safe and free of fear." 

“The new Visitation Center provides a safe and abuse-free environment for families and children,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “The Center also serves as an access point for referring families to additional supportive services, and supports Baltimore’s larger domestic violence reduction strategy, which has been a priority of my administration. We are grateful for the Governor and Lt. Governor’s commitment to creating this safe-haven for families.”

“Domestic violence is a national scourge and Maryland is not immune with more than 18,500 reported cases of domestic violence a year.  Victims of domestic abuse need our support, and I am so pleased that the Baltimore City “Safe Havens” Center will  provide a venue in which victims of domestic violence can have safe, parent-child contact in the presence of a third party to ensure the safety of the entire family,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin.

“I have zero tolerance for domestic violence. As a social worker, I’ve seen first-hand how domestic violence hurts children and destroys families,” said U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. “This new center meets a compelling human need by protecting victims, helping families heal and rebuilding lives. I will continue to fight for families and defend them from continued violence and abuse.”     

Supervised visitation services allow child or adult victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, or child abuse to have parent-child contact in the presence of an appropriate third-party supervisor. One parent turns the child over to a trained supervisor and leaves the room. The other parent can then join the child under the eyes of that supervisor. There is a safe exchange of the child and no direct contact between the parents, which could lead to friction and hostility.
The Safe Havens Visitation Center was made possible through a $400,000 cooperative agreement provided by the OVW. As part of the Violence Against Women Act of 2000, Congress acknowledged the need for available and appropriate supervised visitation and exchange services for child and adult victims of domestic violence. That legislation established the Safe Havens: Supervised Visitation and Safe Exchange Grant Program (Supervised Visitation Program)
“The risk of violence is substantially greater for victims after they leave an abusive relationship. And the potential for further abuse escalates when the victimized parent must come face-to-face with her abuser during court-ordered visitation or exchange of children,” said Bea Hanson, Acting Director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). “I am proud that OVW has been able to play a part in the development of this visitation and exchange center in Baltimore, which not only provides a safe environment for families, but connects victims to community resources that help them rebuild their lives after violence.”
“Supervised visitation is an essential part of an integrated system by the community focused on eliminating domestic violence and protecting its victims. It preserves the vital parent-child relationship, while protecting the child and even the other parent,” said Tammy Brown, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention (GOCCP).
In making the safety of both children and parents a priority, Safe Havens expands the traditional focus of supervised visitation, which was safety of children. Now all involved will have protection from violence when children and parents are coming together.
Sandi Timmins, Executive Director, House of Ruth Maryland said, “The well coordinated exchange of a child, along with the presence of a trained person to supervise the visit, will allow parent-child contact that is safe for all members of the family – a much needed service in our community. The House of Ruth Maryland is focusing on the needs of kids who witness abuse, and is pleased to be a part of supporting the important work of Safe Havens.”

Combating domestic violence is a personal cause for Lt. Governor Brown. In August 2008, his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend. The grief of her loss spurred Lt. Governor Brown to redouble efforts to address domestic violence in our state. Building on his experience as a legislator and the perspective provided by this tragedy, Lt. Governor Brown has championed reforms to combat domestic violence.
Brown led successful efforts in 2009 to improve domestic violence laws by giving judges the authority to take guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. During the 2010 Legislative Session, Brown worked with members of the General Assembly, domestic violence advocates and stakeholders to pass legislation allowing a victim of domestic abuse to terminate a residential lease with a copy of a final protective order.  And the Lt. Governor is leading efforts to increase the availability of hospital-based domestic violence screening programs.
Since taking office, the O’Malley-Brown administration has worked to reduce violent crime in Maryland by 10 percent each year and reduce violent crimes committed against women and children by 25 percent by the end of 2012. Collaborating with state and local partners, they have reduced violent crime statewide to the lowest rates since 1975, and domestic violence deaths in Maryland have dropped by 11.5 percent since 2006.