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Community Impact: Strengthening Family Bonds

The Jackson EMC Foundation recently granted $15,000 to fund the Family Services Supervised Visitation Program at The Tree House, a children’s advocacy center in Winder that works to reduce child abuse in Barrow, Jackson and Banks counties.

The supervised visitation program provides a child-friendly environment for visits between children in foster care and their parents, according to Tree House Executive Director Becky Lee, who says the goal is to enhance family bonds and provide a safe and nurturing environment for children when they are reunited with their parents.

Since 1997, The Tree House has operated as a nonprofit agency serving abused children and their families in hopes of strengthening communities by reducing the occurrence and impact of child abuse. The organization achieves this through counseling, educating, supporting and nurturing children and families by improving the quality of parent-child interaction; supporting and advocating for families to reduce the length of time children are in foster care; improving parenting attitudes; and providing counseling to address unresolved issues that impede parenting.

Services include forensic interviews and evaluation along with counseling for children who have been sexually or physically abused, witnessed domestic violence or homicide, or experienced the traumatic death of a loved one. Family services include parent education, counseling for caregivers trying to regain custody of their children, and transportation to and from visits.

“With the comprehensive services of the Supervised Visitation Center, families and children are provided with support, advocacy, education, transportation and counseling in addition to supervised visits,” says Lee.

Supervised visits are overseen by a trained volunteer who provides appropriate models of discipline and positive reinforcement for parents working on new skills acquired through the Center’s Nurturing Parenting Program. In-home parenting education is available for families who need more intensive instruction.

Last year, according to Lee, The Tree House provided 511 supervised visits to 70 families involving 112 children, and no children re-entered the foster care system after returning to their families.