August 12, 2002

Hannah's House offers a place for supervised parent visitation
___By Brandon Kirk
___Staff Writer
___IRVING--If the divorced parents of a child are so hostile toward each other that transferring the child between parental visits presents a problem, a unique ministry within Dallas Baptist Association now offers an answer.
___The year-old ministry also provides a safe place for parental visits that a court has mandated must be supervised for security reasons.
___Of the 20,000 divorces that occur annually in Dallas County, many involve problems with domestic violence. Children may be caught in the middle of these tense relationships, even after the divorce.
___Hannah's House, a faith-based charity in Irving, has stepped up to the challenge of protecting these children and healing the wounds of families torn apart.
___Hannah's House began in response to passage of Senate Bill 140, which stated that a parent's violent past will be considered in a judge's decisions on required supervision of parental visitation. The law was passed after a divorced Texas man shot his two children while they visited him at home.
___At around the same time, Larry Gilliam, director of Dayspring Counseling, wanted to create a neutral place for the parental exchange of his granddaughter, Hannah. He and another Dayspring counselor, Wayne Whitworth, started Hannah's House as a non-profit ministry.
___"There are families out there that are really hurting," said Jana Whitworth, director of the ministry and consultant for church and community ministries with Dallas Baptist Association. She is married to Wayne Whitworth.
___Hannah's House offers supervised visitations, usually court referrals, where children and their visiting parents with violent records are closely monitored. Hannah's House also offers child exchanges, where children are dropped off and picked up to avoid confrontation between ex-spouses.
___"It takes the friction out of a bad situation," Wayne Whitworth said.
___Making child exchanges at Hannah's House "lets the dust settle" between parents and allows the rebuilding of relationships by avoiding dangerous confrontation during fragile moments of a child's life, he added. "Our ministry is to keep the fuse out of the dynamite."
___The success of Hannah's House is notable, with more than 50 families enrolled after six months of court referrals.

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