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Helping Families Heal

I asked Jimi Rizner, our Supervised Visitation Director, to give us a glimpse of the ministry he oversees. Most of us (myself included) have little to no idea what supervised visitation is and how important it is as families try to heal and become stronger. Yet, this ministry is one of our busiest and currently has a wait list. I encourage you to take a few moments and read through Jimi's story. All names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients.

Sarah Cripps, Executive Director


John wanted to be a part of his little girl’s life. He had missed nine years of Emily’s life and petitioned the courts for the privilege of supervised visitations. John was grateful when the courts granted him the opportunity to finally spend time with his little girl. But how was Emily going to accept seeing a man she never met and hopefully accept him as her father?

You can only imagine the fear and confusion Emily would feel. She had a loving, close relationship with her mother who was remarried. Emily’s stepdad raised Emily for the last few years, and he had become the only father she knew. The life she had come to love was being challenged.

Oaks staff was challenged to help Emily feel safe and get to know her natural father. At first, Emily could not even allow herself to enter the building; she was afraid of what she did not know and expressed this through her tearful resistance. Even when she became willing to enter the room where her father was sitting, she kept her back to him and only mumbled a few times. The supervisor attempted to make her feel comfortable and safe, but the little girl remained burrowed in her coat with tears instead of words. There was even one time where Emily yelled out, “You’re not my father!”.

After a while, John desperately stated, “I do not know what more to do. Do I continue to show up?” The love John had for Emily gave him the patience and fortitude needed while we searched for answers. We thought maybe if the mother joined the session Emily would be less afraid and then possibly open up to her father. Both parents agreed to this arrangement, and Emily’s mother and stepfather joined the next session. For the first time, Emily had turned around and faced all those at the table, including her father. There were no tears. It was then that things began to change.

Eventually and with Emily’s permission, John introduced his wife and son at a session. The two families were able to develop a positive relationship with each other. They played games and did crafts. Everyone began to enjoy their time together! Emily’s reluctance began to lessen as each visitation passed. John and his family began attending Emily’s sport activities. In furthering the process, the supervisor asked Emily, “Would you consider coming into the session without Mom?” She was apprehensive about this at first; running to hold onto her mother. But her mother said to her, “Everything will be alright.”

The connection between father and daughter was a work in progress. Emily had become comfortable with John’s wife and son, making this transition easier for her. In time, those tears had turned to smiles and her fears had disappeared. Both families began to do things together like going for ice cream, bowling and other outside activities. Of course, John let Emily choose the entertainment. Emily was beginning to realize that her family had grown, and it included a father she never knew.

Finally came the day that the courts would decide if John would share unsupervised time with Emily. Would the courts see that this relationship had progressed past the fears and resistance, to a healthy father-and- daughter relationship? The courts did award John unsupervised visitations with Emily! Through it all, John was finally reunified with his daughter.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Emily and John, that their relationship continues to grow and blossom. This heart-warming story is one of many that the Oaks supervised visitation is blessed to be a part of. Volunteers contribute to the success of this mission. If you or someone you know are willing to volunteer, let us know!

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged,

And parents are the pride of their children.”

Proverbs 17:6 (NIT)

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