Working for kids

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Creating safe places in High Point and Greensboro for supervised family visits and for court-ordered exchanges by parents of their children is the focus of a new nonprofit.

Modeled on similar organizations in Raleigh and in Colorado, Harmony House of Guilford County is renting temporary quarters in High Point in the offices of Family Service of the Piedmont.

Children often are caught in ongoing disputes between parents who are separated or divorced, and can find exchanges and visits psychologically painful, says Diane Hamrick, a High Point lawyer who is vice chair of the agency’s board of directors.

“The primary concern is the emotional and physical safety of the children,” says Hamrick, who practices family law.

Supervised exchanges, which began the weekend of September 10-12, will be held Fridays, Sundays and Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., while supervised visits will begin the week of October 4 and be available from Sunday through Friday until 7 p.m.

Harmony House plans to extend those days and hours to meet demand, and to launch a second Harmony House in Greensboro in January 2006.

A board committee is trying to raise money from parents, lawyers, civic groups and others to cover the agency’s $122,000 budget for 2005, and hopes to secure either the gift of a house to serve as its facility, or contributions to buy a facility, Hamrick says.

The agency has hired Hasnah Pearce, a former nonprofit executive from Minnesota, as part-time executive director, and plans to hire two part-time staff to work weekends.

Court-ordered exchanges typically take place Fridays and Sundays, Hamrick says.

Harmony House also is looking for volunteers to work two hours a month on average, she says, and will need at least 84 volunteer hours a week by March, when it expects to expand its hours.

The group is working with an advisory board that includes district court judges, lawyers, psychologists, a physician and representatives of the Guilford County schools and department of social services, United Way of Greater High Point, Family Service of the Piedmont, Lutheran Family Services and Kiwanis.

For information or to volunteer, call 336.884.4440 or 336.883.7808.

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