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Supervised visitation center in Jaffrey to close

  • All R Kids Supervised Visitation Center in Jaffrey, housed in the same building as the Monadnock Adult Care Center, will close by the year's end after not securing a critical piece of federal funding. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • All R Kids Supervised Visitation Center in Jaffrey, housed in the same building as the Monadnock Adult Care Center, will close by the year's end after not securing a critical piece of federal funding. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, November 30, 2017 9:19AM

When Sam Lafortune first heard that All R Kids (ARK) Supervised Visitation Center did not secure the funding needed to operate beyond the end of December, her first thought was about the dozens of families the center will no longer be able to help. 

“I’m obviously very concerned about the families, and the safety of the children and victims of domestic violence [that will no longer be able to serve],” said Lafortune, who has been coordinator of the Jaffrey-based center for over five years. “I’ve told the families that this is what is happening, but I will continue to fight to try and find a way to keep things going.”

ARK was founded 25 years ago, according to Lafortune, to provide a safe and neutral environment for families to have supervised visitations. Those who use ARK’s services are typically referred there through court mandates, oftentimes the result of cases involving domestic violence and sexual abuse.

“It’s been tough. These families have come to count on us, it’s a relationship built on trust,” said Lafortune. “Now that we’ve developed those relationships, it’s hard for them to see anything else.”

In the past year, ARK has served 69 families, with another five to ten waiting in a queue. Lafortune said some families are only there for 90 days or whatever the court mandates, while other families have been with ARK since it moved to Jaffrey about five years ago. 

Lafortune said she first heard that ARK had not secured federal dollars from the Justice for Families program – which represented about a $60,000 shortfall in the center’s roughly $104,000 per year budget – about three weeks ago. The Greater Nashua Supervised Visitation Center will also be closing after not securing funds from the same program.  

“It has been suggested that families will have to go back to court and have their orders rewritten,” said Lafortune, of the next steps for families that can no longer be helped by ARK. “I don’t know what the alternative will be.”

Lafortune said there are other supervised visitation centers in the state – the Merrimack County Visitation Center in Boscawen, for example – but there will no longer be any options available locally. While ARK had no geographic restrictions – people come from as far as Brattleboro, Vermont and Portland, Maine, according to Lafortune – the drive to another location may be too much for some families. 

Lafortune said that in the interim, there is a chance that pop-up style visitation centers will be implemented, but they will likely be in attorneys’ or therapists’ offices and at a cost. 

“Most people that we have dealt with have a restrictive budget,” said Lafortune. “To add additional fees or transportation makes the service more even more restrictive.”

ARK was set up in a specific way to ensure the best possible environment for the children and families involved, according to Lafortune, something that will cannot be emphasized in a pop-up shop style in a therapist’s office. ARK was set up with separate parking lots and entrances for each party and created a child friendly environment to make them feel more comfortable. 

“The idea is to make things as agreeable as possible for the child, not to have an institutional feel,” said Lafortune. “Our facility offered a space that protects both sides.”

Despite being hit with terrible news, Lafortune said she has been lifted up by the wealth of support she has received from the families she has helped serve for the past half decade. 

“People are usually stressed when they come here, it’s nice that they have realized that we have helped make their families better,” said Lafortune. 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.