GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOTV) — The Safe Connections Program at the YWCA was started by Kent County family court Judge John Zemaitis, who found a need to protect victims of domestic violence when it was necessary to interact as part of co-parenting their children. The program provides a safe location for victims of domestic violence to exchange children for parental visits and also provides supervised parenting time if ordered by the court. This program is totally free for low income families, but if you don’t meet the income level subsidy for the service is often available in cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault or child abuse so contact the YWCA directly at 616-426-3748.
Referrals come from the Family Court, Department of Human Services, attorneys and other service agencies as well as individuals. If you feel unsafe when you exchange your child with your ex due to emotional abuse, verbal abuse or physical threats or violence, or there is substance abuse or mental health issues involved, call the YWCA and they will happily evaluate whether your circumstances would warrant using their services. Parents do not meet during exchanges or visitation sessions and safety is their ultimate goal.
In addition to supervised visitation and safe child exchange, the YWCA provides counseling services if the form of group and individual therapy for survivors of domestic violence and support groups and batterer’s intervention counseling for those seeking to stop abusive behaviors. A 24 hour, confidential Crisis Line can be reached at 616-451-2744 (IF YOU ARE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, DIAL 911). They also assist in finding safe shelter for victims and their children who are fleeing domestic violence and need a place to stay as well as temporary shelter for pets.
This fabulous program struggles with funding (they are funded primarily through the Office of Violence Against Women) and they appreciate any donations. If you would like to give to a very great organization that is helping to protect women, children and even men who are victims of domestic violence please log onto their website at www.ywcawcmi.org/dv-services.php and make a donation.