Program to assist estranged parents exchange children closes due to funding shortfall

The Wood County Gift Exchange, a program designed to help minimize tensions between estranged parents at
odds over visitations rights, has fallen victim to hard economic times.
With the grants that helped launch the program in 2007 running out, the program has announced it will end
its services on July 31.
The Gift Exchange provided a place where parents could exchange children in a supervised environment and
where parents could have supervised visitations with children.
Most recently those services were offered in a space provided by First Presbyterian Church in Bowling
Susan McKinney, the program director, said the Gift Exchange can’t come up with the $40,000 a year that’s
needed to run the program.
Those expenses include her salary, the cost of police protection – the largest item, and financial aid
for those who cannot pay the program’s fees. A part-time position, McKinney said, was eliminated in May.

With grants running out, she said, "it’s very, very difficult to get more money without showing vast
need, or growth or improvement."
Over the two and half years the program was in operation, it served 18 families and 27 children, she
"We did everything we could to partner with other organizations, but they are in the same boat as we
In a different time, McKinney said, the program may have been more successful in finding a way to keep
its doors open. "A lot of people don’t realize a non-profit is still a business," she said.
"Even though we don’t make a profit, we still have to sustain ourselves and that just wasn’t going
to happen."
Lieutenant Brad Biller, operations bureau commander for the Bowling Green Police Department, said the
closing of Gift Exchange is a loss for the community.
The program provided "safety and the potential for children to have an opportunity to go through
those exchange processes without conflict," he said.
"It very much provided an environment where conflict was minimized and safety was maximized."

In his experience, there are many people who need such a setting. "I would have liked to have seen
that program taken advantage of more that it was."
For those who did use its service it was a benefit. "It will be missed," Biller said.
McKinney said that while the setting for the exchanges was not ideal – "it’s not natural for
children to come and visit and have a monitor in the room," it did allow the visits and exchanges
to occur and for families to make the transition to other more natural arrangements.
In those cases supervised visits may no longer be needed or were occurring in the homes of relatives or
"Some of them have hopefully seen this as helpful," McKinney said.
Families using the services have several options – Children’s Rights Council of Northwest Ohio with
several sites, East Toledo Family Center, Village House in Fremont, and Harmony House in Findlay – but
none are within the county.