Rockland judge honored for parent-child visitation program
As a Rockland Family Court judge in the 1990s, William Warren presided over many cases in which children were caught in the middle of parental disputes.
With each parent presenting the court with very different pictures of their relationships with their children, determining the truth was often impossible.
It was determined that a safe, protected environment where an independent observer could provide an unbiased assessment of the way the noncustodial parent and child interacted was needed.
And so the Court Ordered Visitation Program was launched by Warren, working with the Rockland County Legislature, especially Legislators Harriet Cornell and Ellen Jaffee.
Warren, now retired from the bench, will be honored for his role in establishing the visitation model in Rockland at a Nov. 16 fundraiser held by the nonprofit that now oversees the program.
Under the newly established Rockland Youth Empowerment Center, the visitation program has served 87 families and 225 children so far in 2022. Nearly half of the cases involved families affected by domestic violence, according to RYE’s CEO, Gillian Ballard.
Ballard said a key function of the visitation program “is for reunification between an absent parent and his or her child. Research proves that a child's mental development is improved with the bonding of both parents.”
The weekly visits with noncustodial parents last from one to three hours and are supervised by probation or parole officers and case workers. Settings include Building A at the county’s health complex in Pomona; offsite at locations including parks and libraries; or virtual meetings.
The program was initially under the auspices of the CASA program, and since 2005 had been run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rockland County.
As Big Brothers Big Sisters’ national organization moved to concentrate on mentoring programs, the Rockland Youth Empowerment Center was created to operate the visitation program and other children’s services, said Ballard, who is also CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rockland.
RYE intends to provide tutoring for children ages 7 to 18 and after-school programs. Plans to start these initiatives were put on hold during the pandemic, but Ballard hopes to launch the services in 2023.
The Nanuet-based nonprofit will celebrate its inaugural fundraiser on Sept. 29 when it honors Warren for establishing the New York State visitation model in Rockland.
The fundraiser takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 3 Executive Blvd., Suffern. Visit ryecenter.org/rsvp/ for tickets and information. Visit ryecenter.org for more about the Rockland Youth Empowerment Center.
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