SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The killing this week of three children and a family friend during a court-ordered custody visitation with the girls’ father has raised many questions about the potential dangers of supervised visitation. .
“A lot of parents feel their rights have been violated and they need to visit their children the way they do,” said Cynthia Wojtas, a professional instructor with Collaborative Supervised Visitation.
This is why the collaborative supervised visits office also has a safe, several exits and, sometimes, a guard. These are just some of the precautions Wojtas takes when overseeing visitation between parents and their children, as ordered by local judges.
“No matter how nice the parent is, no matter how long I’ve known them, that can change at any time because we’re dealing with their kids,” Wojtas said.
In light of Monday’s murders that have further rocked the Arden-Arcade community, FOX40 asked Wojtas to detail how professional visitation protocols might differ from the less formal visitation that occurred at the church in Sacramento. It was there that the three Mora-Gutierrez sisters had what records show was a court-sanctioned visitation with their father, overseen by a family friend.
Wojtas said his protocol was to begin one-on-one visits with the parent.
“We bring the visiting parent to the office and they come 15 minutes early and we assess them as best we can, if they’re high, depressed, angry,” she explained. “And if one of those pops up, we text the caretaker and say, ‘Don’t bring the kids. There will be no visitation.
She said she also set up a secret signal with the children.
“If at any time during the visit they are upset or scared or just want to talk about something, then the child and I go somewhere else away from the parent and talk about it,” Wojtas said.
Unlike some professional tour services, Wojtas said she also takes them to public places like parks. Others have an office visit-only policy and include security measures like metal detectors and armed guards.
But it’s not cheap. Wojtas said parents using professional services should expect to pay $50 to $120 per hour and will sometimes have to pay per child.
Joe Nullet, executive director of the Supervised Visitation Network, a national group of professional providers, said cost shouldn’t be a barrier for families getting professional help.
“There are communities across the United States where they appreciate this service and they have made it free or affordable,” Nullet told FOX40. “Our organization is working to educate communities, courts and lawmakers that this really matters.”
Wojtas has no way of knowing how things got so violent on Monday. But for all non-professionals lending a hand during supervised visits, she reminds them to never let their guard down.
“Please, even if it’s a sister or a brother or whoever, just understand that it could happen,” she said.
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