In 2007, Jodie Warshaw Barone was murdered by her estranged husband during a scheduled custody exchange at the Sheetz in Mill Hall. Earlier this year, the life of a 2-year-old was taken by his father during a custody exchange in Huntingdon County.
For many Centre County residents, this scene is all too familiar: battling parents, domestic violence, court orders to meet in a public place to complete custody exchanges, relying on the presence of others to provide safety. These tragedies serve as a reminder that our community has the responsibility to do more to account for the safety of our neighbors.
Today, thanks to the leadership of Centre County Judge Thomas Kistler and representatives from more than a dozen other local agencies, parents and children have another option when custody exchanges or supervised visits are unsafe.
The Centre County Child Access Center promotes the physical and emotional security of children and their parents by providing a safe and supportive environment for monitored custody exchanges and supervised visitation. We are committed to enhancing the safety of parent and child victims of family violence in an environment that fosters safe and healthy interactions between children and their families. Whether accessing services by court order, self referrals or agency referrals, parents and children no longer have to endure the yelling, the threats, the physical attacks or the fear that may have once plagued custody exchanges. At the Child Access Center, parents have no contact while accessing services and children have a friendly, supportive place come to help ease the transition between parents.
Through the generosity of the Centre County United Way and its Women’s Leadership Group, as well as other private donors, the Child Access Center has facilitated almost 4,000 safe custody exchanges and 600 hours of supervised visits as we close in on our five-year anniversary. Each month we are reminded of the community support for our work as our dedicated volunteers offer up their time and talents to these families in need. We cannot thank these groups and individuals enough for their support and dedication.
For more information on services, visit www.childaccesscenter.com or call 548-0034. The Child Access Center is the grateful beneficiary of the 2013 State College Magazine’s Chefs on Stage fundraising event to be held on Sept. 30. There are numerous opportunities to support the Child Access Center through this event. More information about Chefs on Stage is available on our website or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jamie Jones is director of Centre County Child Access Center, a safe haven for parents and children.