Seibel Center continues to help area families

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Michael H. Seibel Center Family Visitation and Exchange Center in Austin has been helping more and more families since it opened nearly a year ago.

The center allows parents a secure place to visit their children in situations involving divorce, domestic assault or protection orders, among other things. More than 160 families have visited for a total of roughly 1,600 hours since the center opened, the director said Monday during an open house.

Director Heather Steinkamp said the center has “certainly gotten more busy” lately. She said domestic abuse typically goes up during economic downturns, one reason the center may be seeing the increase.

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She also said she thought an increased awareness of the center has contributed to higher numbers.

The center features a number of rooms featuring games and activities where children can meet with a parent. Two secure entrances on different sides of the building allows for a visitation to occur without incident between the parents.

Once a child has been safely led from the entrance into the meeting room, a family monitor is assigned to watch the child and parent.

Another staff member monitors security monitors and speakers from the office to ensure safety.

Brooke Hoebing is a family monitor.

She said despite the fact that she often sees very sad or difficult family situations, she enjoys what she does.

“I love the job,” she said. “It’s really fun to work with the different families and children.”

Hoebing said she must follow a child and parent into any room, but she tries to remain in the background, allowing the two to interact.

Like Steinkamp, Hoebing said she’s noticed more families in the center since she started in November.