Fairl Family Justice Center to Open Soon
Transitions is committed to reducing trauma for children during divorce and separation of parents and we have seen how well the Child Access Center in Bellefonte works for families in Centre County. The Center has been a place for many safe custody exchanges and visitations over its seven years of operation, without incident.
The Child Access Center in Bellefonte came about in response to the murder-suicide involving Benjamin Barone and his estranged wife, Jodi.
After a year of fights over custody of the couples’ 4-year old daughter, Benjamin lured Jodi to a Sheetz parking lot in what appears to be a planned custody exchange. Through a Protection from Abuse Order that Jodi had obtained in Centre County, Benjamin was supposed to have relinquished his guns but he was able to get a gun and killed Jodi and then, killed himself. CentreSafe, a sister agency of Transitions, recognized the need -- and we see a strong need, too.
In our three counties -- Union, Snyder, and Northumberland -- parents do not have a place to safely exchange and visit with their children.
As a result, many exchanges are happening in convenience store parking lots and outside of police stations. We need a safe place for custody exchanges and visitations in this community, and Transitions has obtained the funding to open a Center that aims to do just that.
The Center will be called the William and Carolyn Fairl Family Justice Center. The Fairl Family Justice Center (FJC) will open this fall in the parsonage of the First Reform Church in Sunbury.
The Center is being named in honor of William and Carolyn Fairl, who have been extraordinary volunteers for Transitions. They were intimately involved in the renovation of the Safe House in Shamokin and helped make it a warm and beautiful home for abuse victims and their children seeking emergency housing. Sadly, Bill passed away last year, however Carolyn will help make the FJC a warm and welcoming place, as well.
Child visitation and child custody exchanges are a vital part of maintaining and building relationships between a child and each of their parents, but they can be a major challenge for the parents. The swap occurs each time a child goes from the physical custody of one parent to the other. To avoid the potential escalation of conflict that children do not need to experience, the Center provides a way for the exchange to happen without the parents seeing each other. This is managed by having a minimum of two monitors present. Locked doors inside the house allow one parent to come in, the second parent then brings the child to the house and the monitors handle the exchange. First, the parent dropping off the child leaves from one side of the house and the parent picking up the child leaves through the other side of the house. The house will be nicely furnished and create a home-like setting for our clients and their children.
Initially, we will offer safe exchanges and within a year, offer a location for safe visitations in the house. There will be comfortable family-friendly spaces for parents, who want to spend time with their children. Monitors always will be present but will not intrude on the visitation.
Area judges and attorneys representing clients are anxious for the Center to open. We are currently installing security systems and cameras and the renovation of the parsonage will be completed soon.
-- Susan Mathias, CEO of Transitions