Many children of separated or divorced parents are required to spend time with their abusive fathers on weekends and holidays. Many spend one month of the summer and/or two weeks in the winter away from their mom; court-ordered to be with their dad for extended visits. At Genesis, we see the negative effects these visits can have on children if the father is controlling or manipulative. His abusive tactics towards his ex-wife can include using the children as weapons even after separation.
In response to these visits, the Genesis clinical and legal teams provide Visitation Camp. Counselors work with children and moms to create emotional safety plans and physical safety plans for kids to use at dad’s house. Visitation Camp counseling sessions involve evidence-based interventions such as EMDR and TF-CBT for the child to process any traumatic events that occurred at dad’s house and the trauma experienced from being separated from their mom. Moms meet with an attorney to receive support and information on their legal rights and options, including how to navigate a custody battle or learning how to effectively document concerns such as changes in child’s behavior or injuries after visits with the father.
Visitation Camp also includes moms and children meeting together with counselors to participate in attachment therapy, strengthening their mother-child relationship. Counselors provide parenting support for managing a child’s transition home after a visit with dad, which often includes a child mimicking their father’s disrespect towards their mother. Information is also available to help mom navigate the CPS system and learn legal vocabulary.
Visitation Camp is offered in individual therapy as well as in a group format as pre- and post-sessions for before and after extended summer and winter visitations. As moms and children participate in Visitation Camp, they will experience an increased sense of empowerment and safety as well as a decrease in their trauma symptoms.
On this North Texas Giving Day, consider donating to Genesis to help fund our client centered and trauma informed programming and services like Visitation Camp, provided at no cost for women and children facing abuse.
Ruth Guerreiro, LCSW-S, Sr. Director of Clinical and Non-Residential Services