Living Columns & Blogs

The Centre County Child Access Center opened 10 years ago after tragedy. How it keeps growing

This month, across the nation, people have been commemorating Domestic Violence Awareness Month with a number of events and activities. Of the millions of Americans affected by intimate partner violence (IPV), children may be the most vulnerable. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence found that 1 in 15 children are exposed to IPV each year, and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.

Even if their parents separate, many children continue to be exposed to ongoing IPV tactics such as harassment, intimidation, disruption of the children’s relationship with the other parent or even physical violence. A child who is exposed to IPV faces a long list of possible effects on their social, physical, psychological and emotional development.

Keeping children and their parents safe after separation became a vital part of Centre County’s community response to IPV in 2007 following a tragic domestic violence-related homicide. The Centre County community came together and opened the doors of the Centre County Child Access Center in October 2008. For 10 years the Child Access Center (CAC) has been providing a safe and comfortable place for parents to facilitate custody exchanges and supervised visitation. The idea is simple, parents have no contact while using the CAC and a neutral, third party monitors and facilitates services.

The CAC is an example of everything good in Centre County. From the Court of Common Pleas, to the United Way and its partner agencies, Centre County Government, the Bellefonte Area School District, Bellefonte police, Centre Safe and many other community volunteers, supporters and agencies, the CAC is a truly collaborative effort to address an identified need in our community. For 146 families, we have provided safety and support and encouraged healthy parent-child relationships. Each family has its own story, its own needs and its own outcome. Whether families use services at the CAC for three months or three years, we are committed to safety for everyone in the moment, in the near future and for years to come.

There is no doubt that the next 10 years of the Child Access Center will continue to see growth and change. We are currently seeking a new location in the Bellefonte area that will accommodate our growing demand for services, we are establishing new community partnerships and resources to help our families meet all of their needs and we are providing a resource to other communities identifying the need for safe custody exchange and supervised visitation services. While we continue to grow, we hold strong to our mission, our community and the memory of Jodi Warshaw Barone.

Please call the CAC at 548-0034 for information about our services.

Jamie Jones is the director of the Centre County Child Access Center.