SIOUX CENTER—The Sioux Center City Council approved giving $100,000 toward a new Family Crisis Centers project at its meeting Monday, Oct. 11.
Family Crisis Centers director Shari Kastein presented information to the Sioux Center City Council about the nonprofit’s new family visitation center it is adding to its facility at 1520 N. Main Ave.
FCC is looking to raise a total of $1,060,555 for the project, which involves remodeling a section of its building into three visitation areas, each of which will include a kitchenette so parents can have a place to cook and eat a meal with their children. It can also show supervising social workers that the parent has necessary basic skills to care for the children.
Furniture also will be added to make these rooms a homelike space that’s comfortable and affords some privacy, avoiding anything that feels too clinical or institutional.
“Children are often caught in the middle of complicated family dynamics such as divorce, domestic violence or substance abuse. A family visitation center will provide a place for safe supervisor visits and exchanges, ensuring children are emotionally, physically and mentally safe,” Kastein said. “Currently, the only option available to families in northwest Iowa is out of state.”
She credited a conversation she had more than a year ago with a foster parent for the idea to add a family visitation center to FCC. The foster parent had asked if adding one at FCC was possible.
“I asked, ‘What are you talking about?’ She said, ‘I have foster kids, but when they go to see their parents, they don’t have anywhere to go,’” Kastein said.
Since there aren’t any in the area, the parents had used other places as spots around town to spend time with their child, Kastein said.
“They go walk around Walmart for a couple of hours or they go for pizza and play there. Sometimes they go to the library but can get kind of loud and that doesn’t always work so well,” Kastein said. “But she said they just don’t have a place to go.”
She noted there was one instance at the library that the police had to be called because the situation escalated.
“Having the police involved creates more trauma for the children,” Kastein said. “I’ve spoken with our police chief, Mike Halma, and he said that also creates trauma for the police officers, having to separate families and feeling like they’re adding to the ‘bad guy’ stigma some of these families already feel toward officers.”
With two secure entrances, having a family visitation center will allow a child to be dropped off at one entrance and picked up at the other entrance without the parents having contact with each other. The exchange would take place under the supervision of trained FCC staff.
“This is a way to help prevent altercations and keep all involved more safe,” Kastein said.
The council verbally supported the idea of being a conduit for FCC’s $600,000 Community Development Block Grant application for the family visitation center. The city has done this for FCC four times previously as well as for other organizations. Contracts will be developed and a future public hearing will be set for the council to take official action of support.
“I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t give toward this project,” said council member Jamie Van Ravenswaay, who suggested the $100,000 donation. “You’re working to fill a need that supports families, makes things more safe. That’s valuable for us as a city to support.”