For children from homes wracked by divorce, drug use, violence or myriad other dangers and taken under the court’s protection, a chance to see Mom and Dad should be a time of happiness.
But when parents can only visit while under court-ordered supervision, is not always so much fun.
“It can be stressful,” said Jeremy Simons, a New Port Richey area family law attorney.
And while an organization called Family Partnerships handles the supervised visits, an effort is under way to create a place to help put the children at ease.
The ultimate goal is to build a playground where the visits are now held. It will be designed to look like indoor play areas, said Simons, who writes a weekly opinion column for Patch called . Simons is also one of the playground project's main sponsors and supporters.
The Forest Glen Lodge in New Port Richey that provides the location for the visits has a playground space, but it could be better.
“They have a playground area, but it just doesn’t have the facilities to handle supervised care,” Simons said.
To help remedy this, an afternoon of food, music and children’s activities is planned for Saturday, Aug. 11. Proceeds will go to the playground fund.
Things start at 3 p.m. and wind down at 7 p.m. at the Forest Glen Lodge, 7435 Plathe Road in New Port Richey.
For the children, there will be a petting farm at the lodge, a Bouncy House and other activities and live music and a silent auction for the adults. In addition, many of the nearly 20 sponsors are expected to have booths at the event and S.E. Day from the “Legally Steal” radio show will be there and may do a show from the fundraiser, Simons said. Patch.com is also a project sponsor.
Attending is free but you can buy a food ticket for $10 and donations will be accepted. Simons said Souix City Steakhouse on Little Road has agreed to provide the food.
The playground that organizers envision would include rooms such as Noah’s Ark, an aquarium theme and whale theme. All will be equipped to help the parents form a healthy bond with their children.
The nonprofit Family Partnerships provides one of Pasco's only supervised visitation centers and runs under a contract with Eckerd Community Alternatives, Simons said. Another visitation center in Dade City handles only domestic violence cases, he added.
In addition to the supervised visits, Family Partnerships has drug testing and classes in parenting skills that include showing the danger of shaking babies. The organization also uses dolls that mimic a baby’s actions and needs to teach parents how to deal with a real infant.
The goal is to teach the parents how to care for their children and move to unsupervised visits and ultimately regain custody, Simons said.
To find out more about the playground project or to make a donation, visit Family Partnerships online.