Harmony House: A Safe Place to Build Relationships, Even in Difficult Situations

Posted By: on July 15, 2015
Group of children with a white board isolated in white

Editor’s Note: At Heart-Centered Counseling, we’ve been working on partnering with different community agencies. Every now and then, we’ll feature one of our community agencies.

This time, in two parts, we’re talking about our friends at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children), who also run the Harmony House. We’ll start by telling you more about the Harmony House. In their own words…

It is always tragic to see a child removed from his mother or father. But at times, this is what’s best for both the children and the adults in a situation.

The Harmony House Visitation Center provides a place for these families to continue to build relationships together, especially in situations where contact between adult and child would not otherwise be possible.

The Harmony House has programs in both Fort Collins and Loveland and serves all of Larimer County and surrounding areas.

It’s role is to provide a safe, non-threatening environment where children can visit their parents without conflict or adult conversations about difficult situations. Most of all, it’s a place where children do not have to feel responsible for the current situation. Harmony House staff will enforce the program’s rules and policies in order to ensure the safety of participants.

Adults and children can visit each other in a supervised setting (either fully-supervised visits or monitored visits). Harmony House staff take notes about the interaction to provide to the adults or other professionals involved in any legal proceedings, if applicable.  

People may attend supervised visitations if there has been a restriction to parenting time put in place, often by the courts or the Department of Human Services, or if they are wanting to establish a consistent relationship with the child or children and would not otherwise be allowed to do so.

Some cases may involve substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, parental conflict, mental health, reunification or parenting time disputes.

Mental health is important as it can impact parenting. Some of the families at Harmony House are affected by mental health issues, whether it is themselves or someone in their family.

Harmony House demographics track the primary reason for referral to the program. However, there are often multiple issues present in a case. Parents may be working with other organizations or therapists regarding their mental health needs.

Exchanges for Couples with Shared Custody

Parties with shared parenting time may utilize Harmony House for exchanges, where children may be transferred from one party to the other using staggered arrival times, eliminating the risk of conflict between parties in front of the children.

There may be a protection order in place preventing the parties from seeing each other, or there could be a history of conflict between parties. Harmony House communicates between parties regarding scheduling and keeps record of the exchanges.

The records reflect whether parties arrive on time to pick up and drop off the children and whether parenting time schedules are consistently maintained.

In 2014, the Harmony House facilitated 1,601 supervised visitations and 1,735 exchanges.

Success Story: Beth and Madison

Success at the Harmony House looks different in different cases.

For example, Beth grew up in a family of abuse and violence at the hands of her father. Growing up, her mother did not believe her when she told her he was sexually abusing her. If she did, she never acknowledged it was happening or did anything to protect her from it happening again.

When Beth was 18, she left home. Not long after, she became pregnant with her daughter, Madison.

In her adulthood, Beth had also learned that her mother was a victim as well and suffered from mental health issues. Beth’s mother longed to have a relationship with her granddaughter, but continued to deny the allegations of abuse.

Beth was very concerned and wanted to protect Madison from the things that had happened to her in her childhood. She sought the advice of a therapist, who had mentioned Harmony House.

They did not have a court order, and she had not previously been aware of the Harmony House program. Beth contacted the Harmony House and inquired about setting up supervised visitations with her mother and her daughter.

Beth’s mother agreed to visit Madison at the Harmony House, and they established a consistent schedule of visits.

Over the years, they celebrated holidays and birthdays together at the Harmony House. Grandma was able to talk to Madison about school and her hobbies. They played games together and visited during mealtimes.

Madison and her grandmother were able to have a relationship, one that would not have happened without the safety of the supervision of the Harmony House.

Madison did not experience the things Beth did in her childhood. Beth always had Madison’s best interest at heart. She gave Madison the safe, loving childhood she had been deprived of as a child.

Harmony House’s Location

Long-time Fort Collins’ residents may remember the history of the Harmony House.

The old red-brick farmhouse now known as the Harmony House was once the site of the Zeigler sheep farm. Surrounded now by big business buildings, the farmhouse is a glimpse of the countryside that used to dominate the area.

The stairway is lined with photos tracking the history of the house from the late 1800’s to 1990 when the Moore family generously donated the old, historic building to CASA of Larimer County for the purpose of opening a visitation center, as there had not previously been a program like this in the community.

Interested in learning more about Harmony House? Visit their website or give them a call at (970) 223-5966.

And if you’d like to talk to someone about group, individual, or family counseling, we’re always ready to help. Send a confidential email to help@heartcenteredcounselors.com or call (970) 498-0709.

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