Security standards not mandated for visitation sites
The state Division for Children, Youth and Families has no regulatory oversight of the visitation centers where parents involved in domestic violence cases can meet with their children under court-ordered supervision.
It's up to the individual programs to decide what type of security to provide during supervised visits.
Last Sunday, Menahem "Muni" Savyon shot and killed his 9-year-old son and then committed suicide during a supervised visit at the YWCA's visitation center in Manchester. The child's mother had gotten a restraining order against Savyon in 2012, and he was allowed only supervised visits with his son, Joshua.
Savyon, 54, had previously threatened to kill the mother of his son, the boy and himself, according to court documents.Edwin Kelly, administrative judge of the New Hampshire Circuit Court, said the question of visitation with children is addressed as part of the domestic violence process.
"Where there's a situation where someone raises a question of danger to the child, as happened in this case, the options are expanded to consider supervised visitation centers, if you're lucky enough to be in an area where they have one," he said.
But the court doesn't typically order police protection or other security measures, Kelly said.
"That goes beyond anything that the court would do," he said. "If the issue of dangerousness was raised to such a level that someone felt there was that level of concern, it would be more likely the court would order no visitation."
It's up to parents to arrange meetings at a visitation center and pay for the time spent there.
At Merrimack County Visitation Center, which has locations in Concord, Franklin, Henniker and Pittsfield, parents pay $20 an hour for supervised visits, $10 an hour for "semi-supervised" visits and $5 to exchange children there, according to its website.
Julie Darling, coordinator of MCVC, said she would not talk about the specific security measures in place there because she wanted to protect the families that use the center. But she said deputy sheriffs are in the building during all visits, and they check in the non-custodial parents when they arrive for visitations.
Darling said court orders in each case are reviewed. And she said, "We do assess risk for every family that comes through our doors."
The YWCA in Manchester did not respond to a reporter's questions Friday about what security measures were in place during Savyon's visit with his son last week.
But at a news conference held the day after the shootings, Monica Zulauf, president of the YWCA, said when families are identified as higher risk, they cannot use the center unless they pay for a police detail during a visit.
She said an adult counselor was in the room during the visit between Muni Savyon and Joshua. And she said video surveillance taken during the visit was turned over to police.
Darling said her center is reviewing its security policies because of last Sunday's tragedy in Manchester. "Because I think that no matter how safe of a service you're providing, there's always room for improvement.
"I think it would be remiss for us to not do that in the wake of this tragedy," she said.