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Seibel Q & A

What is a supervised visitation and exchange center?
A supervised visitation and exchange center is a safe setting in which custodial and non-custodial parents may visit with their children, or for the exchange of children by and between parents. The types of situations that may require the use of the center include parents involved in domestic violence, Orders For Protection, Harassment Orders, or divorcing parents who have conflict. In most cases, the parents will be court ordered to use the center, or referred through other legal action. Some families may self-refer; these cases involve non-custodial parents who have visitation rights and no local place to visit or safely exchange for the visit.

Why is there a need for a supervised visitation and exchange center?
The need for the center has been well-documented in Mower County. County and city law enforcement officials face serious incidences of domestic violence. In 2006, there were 671 domestic response calls. Currently, police records indicate an average of 2-3 domestic- related calls a night and more than 90% of the assault arrests are related to domestic violence. Also in 2006, 106 Orders For Protection/Harassment Orders were filed (up from 79 in 2004), 44 of which had visitation and/or exchange issues; there were 85 violations of OFPs filed. Mower County Attorney's Office successfully prosecuted 6 of 15 strangulation cases under the new Minnesota felony statute and 89 5th degree domestic assault cases (up from 68 in 2004) were prosecuted. The year 2006 also witnessed the murders of battered women in neighboring rural counties, Filmore and Freeborn: one woman was killed by her husband with a shot gun and the other, stabbed over 20 times by her boyfriend. This is reminiscent of a triple murder in Mower County in 1994 when a woman and her two daughters were bound and shot by her husband in a rural community, 45 minutes from the quickest law enforcement response.

There have been a minimum of 55 dissolutions with children filed in 2006; while this number does not mean that each require visitation protection, the number does not include cases filed in previous years that come back for visitation issues that do involve supervision protection issues.  The Mower County Third Judicial District Court reports that well in excess of 100 cases per year require supervision in visitation that is safe for both parents and children. Crime Victims Resource Center statistics for the last year of operation of the closed visitation center (7/1/03-6/30/04) show that 153 children served, witnessed or were otherwise involved in domestic situations where criminal charges and/or Orders for Protection were filed; it is unknown how many children were involved in domestic violence situations where no criminal charges or orders were filed. 

Focus groups conducted annually by the Parenting Resource Center showed an increase in concern over young girls trading sex for heroin and meth. Additionally, prostitution and trafficking has increased; in February, 2005 Mower County prosecuted an aunt who prostituted her 14 year old niece to 10 men. In addition to the vital statistics - needs assessment surveys, focus groups with divorcing parents and battered women, and key information surveys were conducted over the past 18 months and resoundingly, the results indicate a significant need for both safe exchange and visitation services for victims and children of domestic violence. In addition, countless incidents of domestic assault, intimidation, threats of abduction and other forms of violence within families that respondents serve were shared that never made it into the public record. Domestic violence is a public safety issue. The need for supervised visitation and exchange services is an urgent and pressing need in our community.


What has happened in the past for visitation and exchange?
Families who exchanged children for visitation used fast food parking lots, gas stations, the law enforcement parking lot, and schools to pick-up and drop off children. In these situations, there are no intermediaries keeping the children from being put in the middle of conflict and no one protecting domestic violence victims from their abuser.

Families who required supervised visitation were typically using family members to supervise the visits, in unsecured settings with no "neutral" party to protect the domestic violence victim or the children from being placed in the middle of domestic violence.  There was one local organization conducting supervised visits other than the center. This organization faced multiple barriers including minimal staffing, high costs, as well as limited space and time availability.


What services are offered?

  • Supervised visitation weekly for families;
  • Exchanges by-and between parents of their children for families weekly;
  • Trained staff as necessary for visitation and exchange of children by and between parents;
  • Culturally competent staff who are able to communicate in Spanish, French, and German, as well as other languages upon request;
  • Transportation can be available several days per week for families living in rural Mower County.


Why the name Michael H. Seibel Family Visitation and Exchange Center?
The center was named after the late Honorable Judge Michael H. Seibel, who was dedicated to ending violence against women and children, the Center will be offering a safe setting in which non-custodial parents and their children can interact. The family of Judge Seibel says this about the naming: "We are honored and humbled to have Mike's (dad's) name attached to such a wonderful cause and to have his legacy live on in the community.  We truly wish Mike could be here with us to accept this honor but we know that his spirit continues to live on in us and the community and that his commitment to help families in need will be better fulfilled with this new Family Visitation & Exchange Center.  We are proud to be part of such a wonderful legacy that will continue to carry on his name and his values."