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Kids’ Corner, a new program set up by the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court Family Division, is a center where battling ex-spouses who have joint custody can exchange the children without subjecting them to ugly scenes that could cause emotional distress.
Previously, courts, attorneys, and law enforcement have urged couples to exchange their children in public so as to avoid conflict. However, unsupervised custody exchange has in some cases led to public fights causing serious emotional trauma for children.
At the Kids’ Corner, the children are the number one concern. Parents must sign contracts and attend training and counseling sessions in an effort to prevent negative interactions.
During the child exchange, one parent must arrive 15 minutes before the other and the ex-spouses are kept in separate waiting rooms. There are also separate parking lots designated for mothers and fathers.
Children wait in a room with social worker that specialize in preventing conflict. Here, the kids can play games, watch videos and interact with each other.
“They [the children] have formed a little support group, because they see other children in the same
situation as they are. Normally, they don’t talk about this situation with other children,” said Katherine Claudson, the lead administrator of Kids’ Corner.
The purpose of the program is to prevent children from having to witness their parent’s fighting and arguments, which may involve violence. A former county police officer is at the center to quell any problems that may arise.
“Our hope is that through this program, these parents can once again learn to be civil to each other,” Claudson said. “We’re able to take a lot of the emotions out of the situation and just allow people to feel safe.”
Kids’ Corner is only one of seven other programs in Illinois and serves about 20 children and their parents. Another similar center in St. Clair County helps 62 children. The program directors are expanding their efforts to publicize its services.
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