A father’s 5-year old twins, a boy and girl, were playing on the floor when he appeared in the doorway. One twin looked and yelled “Daddy,” then the other one yelled “Daddy,” and they ran into his arms. He gathered them both up in a big hug.
Robin Rinzler of Arroyo Grande, director of the Women’s Community Center in San Luis Obispo, spoke of the first client in March 2010 for BETTER — Building Enduring Ties That Enrich Relationships — a supervised visitation program.
Moments like the one above make the program for supervision of parents who don’t have custody of their children worthwhile. A monitor is present for the parent and the child, making parental visits possible while court proceedings take place.
Rinzler, who also owns Core Mediation, which helps people through the divorce process, got the idea for the BETTER program when she learned that many noncustodial parents were not seeing their children because they could not afford the $65 per hour that other agencies charge.
She decided, “I think this is something we need to do.” Now the program has 62 children, and has worked with 88 families since the beginning. They charge a sliding scale, beginning at $15 per hour. Monitors receive a stipend.
Angel Zamora has completed the program and now has partial custody of his 2-year-old daughter, Erica. He has her two evenings a week and all day Saturday. Zamora, 27, who works in retail, brought Erica to the center for an interview.
While Erica played with toys, he expressed his gratitude for the program.
“They’re really wonderful people,” he said.
“At first I didn’t like it,” he said. He worried about being comfortable with his daughter with a monitor nearby. It was difficult when the monitor spoke no Spanish, which was Erica’s main language.
“Then I started looking at it that it was an opportunity to prove that I was a good enough dad to be on my own, and that it was a road I had to take, and I don’t regret that I had to take it.”
Zamora and Erica had just come from feeding the goats at Avila Valley Barn, and were headed out to Avila Beach later.
Places where they met during the supervised meetings included Café Andreini coffee house and the park by the creek in the Village, McDonald’s and Elm Street Park in Arroyo Grande.
At first, Rinzler looked at the program through the eyes of the parent not being able to see their child.
Then it came to her, “What’s it like for a child not to see his or her mommy or daddy?” As she saw the children’s reactions, she began to see the situation through their eyes, too.
Other programs the Women’s Community Center offers include a divorce class; a pro per clinic where family law attorneys donate their time to help people represent themselves in court without a lawyer; Court-Watch, where volunteers sit in the courtroom to support a family; a resource and information center; Women’s Press, which is currently only online; and Day with Creative Women, an arts and crafts festival, the center’s biggest fundraiser.
This year, the Day with Creative Women will be held Aug. 13 at Mission Plaza in San Luis Obispo. To volunteer or for more information about the BETTER program or others, contact the center at 544-9313 or email email@example.com.
Gayle Cuddy and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column onalternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.