ST. CLOUD -- Families impacted by domestic violence have a new place to have supervised visits with children inside the Stearns County Administration building.

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Holding Hope Supervised Visitation Center was made possible through a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women. It's a place where visiting parents can meet with their children in a safe and supervised space or a monitored exchange of children from one parent to another.

Holding Hope Manager Mindy Thomes says they only deal with cases where domestic violence is involved. As a result, they needed to create secure areas to hold supervised visitations but also make it comfortable for their clients...

We have a family-like center. Our rooms are set up with couches, TVs, kitchen tables, ways to provide food, and lots of toys and activities for parents to do with their kids while visiting. And, we are very discreet.

Anna Marie's Alliance and the other members of the Domestic Violence Partnership have worked together for years to get the center open. Anna Marie's Executive Director Charles Hempbeck says the design is all centered around the safety of everyone involved...

The need for a space like Holding Hope is that it makes sure that the parties don't have contact with each other, don't see each other, and make sure that the kids are safe. It also makes sure that both the custodial and non-custodial parents are safe as well. So, it's really focused on safety.

The three-year grant covered the renovation of the former county Recorder's Office and will fund the center's operations until they can secure future funding.

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