It’s fitting in a way that a building that used to house the poor and homeless will on Friday officially become the new location for Baltimore County Circuit Court’s visitation center. Because the center, run through the court’s Family Support Services office, has been an orphan of sorts since its inception 11 years ago.
Officially known as the Supervised Visitation and Monitored Exchange Program, the visitation center primarily is used to allow meetings between children and “high-risk parents,” as well as drop off and pick up children whose safety is not a concern despite an issue between the parents.
The center has never had its own space, only sharing county buildings, according to Mark Urbanik, coordinator of Family Support Services. It most recently had space on the east side and west side of the counties until funding losses made the arrangement unsustainable.
So the court went to the county and asked for a new space. The county chose a central location, Cockeysville and building, The Almshouse, which dates to 1873 but closed in 1930. It was most recently used by the Baltimore County Historical Society.
The center hosts 125, one-hour-long supervised visitation sessions a month, Urbanik said. “High-risk” parents could include those with a history of drug problems or who are considered a flight risk, he said. There are about 10 monitored exchanges each month, he added, in cases where one parent has a restraining order against the other, for example.
Its new second-floor home features a large “romper room” with toys, games and crafts for families, Urbanik said. Perhaps more importantly, the center has separate parking lots for parents to prevent any chance encounters.
Urbanik added there is also room for a possible expansion in the future.