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The Parenting Place expands exchange and visitation program

By Jenna Troum, jtroum@wkbt.com
Published On: Mar 19 2013 06:15:42 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 19 2013 06:23:03 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis. -

When parents separate, children can get caught in the middle.

A rocky ending to the relationship can mean even rockier exchanges and visitations with kids.

A new grant is allowing the Parenting Place to help make things go a little more smoothly for families going through a rough split.

The Parenting Place in La Crosse has been supervising exchanges and visitations for local families for years.

Up until now, the federal grant that's been funding the program has only allowed them to do that for families with a history of domestic violence.

The Parenting Place family-support programs director, Alyson Holmay, hated to turn away families who wanted help.

She's had to do it about three times a week.

"We could only offer supervised visits and exchanges to families that had a history of domestic violence, which meant that families that were going through a bad divorce, had high conflict, recently separated and just had some issues to work through that they couldn't on their own -- they couldn't use our program," said Holmay.

But a new $28,000 grant from the Wisconsin Children's Trust Fund is allowing The Parenting Place to expand its Family Exchange and Visitation Program to a new population of parents whose conflicts haven't escalated to domestic violence.

The program will also expand those services to The Parenting Place's Onalaska location.

"Parents are able to do that pick-up and drop-off without the conflict and fighting that often accompanies unsupervised exchanges," said Holmay.

The executive director of one of the program's partners, New Horizons shelter and outreach center, said that conflict can have a big impact on the building blocks of a child's development.

"Even if there isn't any abuse going on, just the tension and sometimes some of the cruel things that parents that are going through a separation can say to each other will affect the child emotionally and can damage them that way," said Ann Kappauf.

"It's a service that's been needed in La Crosse for a long time. It's frustrating when you have families that want to work through their conflict and want help and support to do that, and we weren't able to offer that to them. So this is a great program for the community and it will really help a lot of families," said Holmay.

About 35 families a month have supervised exchanges and visits at The Parenting Place.

With the new grant, it's hoping to serve 30 new families this year.

To find out more information about the program, call The Parenting Place at 608-784-8125 and ask for Alyson Holmay.

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