N.H. House to consider bill to expand supervised visitation services

  • A supervised visitation room at the Merrimack County Visitation Center in Boscawen.

Monitor staff
Published: 2/22/2019 2:07:02 PM

A bill that would create a supervised visitation network and provide funding for one center in each New Hampshire county will go before the full House Wednesday.

House Bill 565 cleared its first legislative hurdle this week when the Children and Family Law Committee voted 17-1 “ought to pass,” sending the bill to the House floor. It is scheduled to be considered as a consent item on Wednesday’s agenda, meaning it could move forward in a swift voice vote.

Visitation centers serve parents and children in high-conflict and high-risk cases to include those involving domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental illness or drug addiction.

Currently, visitation services and monitored exchanges of children are provided in only Boscawen, Dover and Lebanon. Several centers closed their doors in recent years, mainly because federal grants ran dry and alternative funding options never materialized.

The bill now before lawmakers calls for $2.3 million in state funds to operate a secure visitation center in each of New Hampshire’s 10 counties, at a cost of roughly $200,000 per center. If approved, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services would administer the funds to qualifying centers.

The amended version of the bill further clarifies that all centers must adhere to national best practices and safety guidelines as established by Safe Havens, a grant program of the federal Office on Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice. Those secrurity measures include separate enterances for custodial and non-custodial parents, staggard arrival and departure times and metal detectors at each entrance.

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