County officials seek grant for child safety

Posted Jan. 20, 2009, at 11:04 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:03 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Piscataquis County officials are seeking a three-year grant to make safer the supervised visitation and exchange of children involved in domestic violence, dating violence, child abuse, sexual assault and stalking.

County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to serve as the applicant for a Safe Haven grant of up to $400,000 on behalf of Womancare and Penquis. If funded, the county will serve as the fiscal agent, but the two agencies will administer the grant.

“We don’t really have a good system [in place] right now,” for supervised visits and exchanges, Cynthia Freeman-Cyr, Womancare’s resource development coordinator, told commissioners Tuesday.

Families involved in child exchanges and supervised visits have to travel to a Bangor agency where they are monitored, Cyr said after the meeting. In some cases, however, judges have recognized the hardship such travel brings to some families, and have allowed the involvement of a third party to participate in an exchange or supervised visit as long as it’s in a public place, she said. That sometimes puts the third party, whether it is a relative or a friend, in an uncomfortable place, she noted.

“What this money is intended for is to increase safety for all the parties,” Cyr told commissioners. “We know the need is great.”

The idea is not to have a new center, but to have a place in the community where families can go and be monitored when children are involved, according to Cyr.

The effort is to protect children from the trauma of seeing domestic or dating violence or experiencing abduction, injury or death during such visits or exchanges. It also would protect parents or caretakers who are victims of domestic or dating violence from further violence, abuse or threats during the visits, she said.

Attorney Tamar Mathieu of Penquis said her agency would prepare the grant, but a branch of local government has to submit the application and serve as fiscal agent for the funds.

The grant’s objective is to strengthen partnerships for safer communities and help prevent, solve and control crime. Of the grant total, $50,000 must be used for training and technical assistance.

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