On May 15th SafePlace and Travis County will celebrate the Grand Opening of PlanetSafe, a supervised visitation and safe exchange center. PlanetSafe will provide safe visitation and exchange services for parents leaving abusive relationships.
Right now, there is no safe and affordable child visitation and exchange service in Central Texas, which presents a huge vulnerability for survivors of domestic violence. Imagine your ex-partner and the parent of your child is abusive. Next, imagine that a court requires you to meet him or her to drop your kids off for weekend visitation. Currently, the only option in Travis County is a network of private contractors whose services are designed to ensure the safety of children, not the safety of parents. These contractors charge between $60-$140 per hour. This fee is split between both parents, with no regard to who is abusive in the relationship.
What many end up forced to do is forgo this expensive, supervised exchange and meet at a family member’s house or the closest fast-food restaurant. So many times, this has resulted in more threats, more verbal abuse, and more violence.
PlanetSafe is a two-year, collaborative project of Travis County and SafePlace. It is funded through a Safe Havens grant from The Office on Violence Against Women. Services will be offered on a sliding-scale basis, starting at $5 for safe exchanges and $10 for supervised visitation. Both parents also have an opportunity to meet with a case manager to talk about needs, receive referrals to other SafePlace programs, or get help to change abusive behaviors. Initially, families receiving this service will either be referred from SafePlace, or will have a court order. At a later date PlanetSafe will expand to accept referrals from other service provider and the community.
PlanetSafe is located across from the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center at 1101 Nueces Street in Austin, and, starting in May, will be open Friday – Monday to allow for weekend visitations and exchanges.
Those interested in volunteering at PlanetSafe should attend a 2-hour volunteer open house, and sign up for 40-hour volunteer training occurring in July 2013.