The African American Spiritual “There is a Balm in Gilead” asserts that a cure exists for the broken and wounded. In St. Johns County, a private non-profit organization called Kids Bridge is that balm for those wounded as a result of broken, troubled families.
Kids Bridge serves an average of 30 families a month, providing a safe space for court-ordered supervised visitation and telephone conversations. Most participating families come through the courts, but the general public can also benefit from some of its programs – like the Stepping Stone program for children, a country requirement for divorcing couples.
“For families to visit, we provide a neutral territory. We’re like Switzerland,” says one long-time board member. Besides an active board and an auxiliary board, Kids Bridge has a tiny paid staff — one full time, two part-time. Four Flagler College interns are also part of the team.
The organization’s director said they may have three to five families visiting simultaneously. When parents visit with children at Kids Bridge, they are supervised and can receive parental coaching during the visit. They may take a Healing Arts class with their children, or they can porch sit and watch their children in the playground. All visits are supervised as are telephone conversations with an incarcerated parent.
Adults and children may attend anger management classes. The weekly Batterers Intervention group meets for about six months, where both men and women attend in lieu of jail time or perhaps in conjunction with a jail term. One board member said that after the last two hurricanes, several tradesmen from the group arrived as volunteers to make repairs – they were pleased to help keep Kids Bridge in good shape.
In 2010, Kids Bridge saw another act of generosity. Richard Willich of MDI Inc. asked the organization for a wish list. His large donation allowed for Kids Bridge to make major renovations — including a new roof, drywall installations, plumbing, even major appliances. He even sent an interior decorator. “Richard has been a sort of savior for us,” one board member says. “Ten years have passed, though, and we need to raise funds again. We’re the sort of place no one misses until we’re no longer providing services.”