Not Just for Snowstorms: The Power of Virtual Supervised Visitation Post-Pandemic

Quick escape link leading to Weather Network websiteQuick Escape Girl sitting at desk waving on a video call, at computer screen

May is Supervised Visitation Awareness Month. This month is an important time to reflect on the safety and well-being of children, particularly in vulnerable family dynamics.

YWCA Hamilton offers Supervised Parenting Services as a way for families who have experienced separation and divorce in cases where safety is a significant concern. The service is legally mandated and allows families to be safe and connected either on-site or virtually where there has been gender-based violence, issues pertaining to mental health or additions, the threat of abduction, neglect or a variety of other circumstances that impact safety. The global pandemic made traditional practice impossible at times – as it did in many other settings. Through thoughtful collaboration between our team at YWCA Hamilton, community partners and the Ministry of the Attorney General, we began to innovate. What developed was a new era of remote supervised visitation.

We reached out to Daniella Bozur, Manager of Supervised Parenting at YWCA Hamilton to describe how remove supervised visitation developed out of a need during the pandemic has evolved in the last few years to enhance how YWCA Hamilton supports the safety of children and families.

Daniella shared, “Our team and Dr. Michael Saini  (Of the University of Toronto School of Law and Social Work) embarked on a mission to explore the potential and benefits of virtual supervised services. What we uncovered was astounding: from enhanced accessibility to safety and comfort, virtual visitation transcended geographical boundaries and technological hurdles, bringing families closer, more safely.

Virtual services became the catalyst for building and nurturing relationships between parents and children. Through virtual dinners and story times, and introduction to new pets, virtual visits fostered safe, enriching connection between family members.  Witnessing a virtual “I love you” and little ones hugging devices, and I knew I was onto something special.

This service was especially important for survivors of gender-based violence. Often parents of children in the program. Survivors had more options for safe contact to occur between their children and ex-partners. More options are what survivors deserve – and the comfort and safety that virtual visitation affords them is justice-oriented parenting, post-violence.

Of course, with innovation comes challenges. Technological glitches and policy adaptations were but hurdles in the path to progress.  With every bump in the road, we found an innovative solution for smooth navigation.”

Last year, YWCA Hamilton’s Supervised Parenting program was the recipient of a grant from IODE Canada (Inclusive, Organized, Dedicated, Enthusiastic) made it possible for us to continue our work in virtual supervised parenting and to conduct and contribute to research in this field.

For the last year, Daniella and the team have worked alongside Dr. Saini in this endeavor. Together they embarked on a journey to unravel the unknowns and potentials of virtual services when it wasn’t merely being used as a band-aid solution for events like snowstorms.

Earlier this month, Daniella presented on the innovation and success that virtual programming has at the Supervised Visitation Network Annual Conference to encourage other providers to build services that centre safety for survivors of violence in hopes of reshaping the landscape of supervised parenting.

Daniella Bozur speaking at podium.
Daniella Bozur speaking at Supervised Visitation Network Annual Conference

She explains, “Our presentation was a call for change, to mitigate risk by providing increased options for families and most of all, a plan to do better for survivors of gender-based violence. By investing in technology, providing comprehensive training, and adapting policies, service providers can harness the full potential of virtual visits, ensuring safe, effective, and supportive environments for all involved.”

We all have a part to play in promoting the safety and well-being of children. Thank you to Daniella and team for responding to this important community need through innovation and sharing YWCA Hamilton’s success with other providers to make supervised parenting safer for families and children.

Daniella Bozur is the Manager of Supervised Parenting at YWCA Hamilton, she has been with the organization for 16 years.

 

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