ST. GEORGE — Before David Heisler was kidnapped and left to die in the desert, his daughter Mariah was going through court-ordered supervised visits with her mother — something Mariah’s grandmother Debbie Heisler said was “probably not so safe” at times.
“There’s only so many places you can go that are public, that don’t have triple-degree weather — we’re in Southern Utah,” said Debbie Heisler, who in addition to being David’s stepmother, was also the supervisor for Mariah’s visits with her parents. “To be in a public place during a supervised visitation is almost impossible for lengths of time. You can’t stay in McDonald’s for six hours; they won’t let you do that.”
Debbie Heisler is now 8-year-old Mariah’s guardian, and seeing a need in the community for a place parents can conduct safe, neutral visits, Debbie Heisler and Suzun Abbott, who also had struggles with supervised visits in her family, established the Blue Butterfly House.
The Blue Butterfly House, which officially opens its doors Wednesday in St. George, is a nonprofit corporation that will provide a place where children involved in court custody cases can have court-ordered supervised visits with parents. Once open, the Blue Butterfly will be the first and only place solely designed for supervised visits in Southern Utah.
The three visitation rooms in the Blue Butterfly House each have distinct personalities expressed in their colorful decorations and inviting furniture. One room has bright sunshine motifs and another has a sprawling mural of a dragon and castle. The third room, which is based off the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” has different scenes of the world covering the walls and shelves.
“It’s just a happy, peaceful, cheerful place,” Abbott said.
Nearly everything in the Blue Butterfly House, including all of the furniture and decorations, was donated by sponsors in the community, Debbie Heisler said, noting that many of the people who donated money, decorations or furniture to the Blue Butterfly House had personal experiences with child custody cases.
“This was something passionate for them and I think healing for them as well,” Debbie Heisler said. “There are so many people who have custody issues right now as we speak. There’s so many people with divorces, and many of them are emotional.”
Establishing the Blue Butterfly House took all of Abbott’s and Debbie Heisler’s heart and soul for the better part of a year, Abbott said. Once it opens, both of them will be working at the Blue Butterfly House part time. The negative experiences both of them had with supervised visits and child custody cases will hopefully allow them to better help others who visit the Blue Butterfly House, Debbie Heisler said.
“I almost feel like my son (David) led us to this,” Debbie Heisler said. “He’s so much a part of this for us. The journey of doing this has given our family new hope.”
A typical visit at the Blue Butterfly House will see the child and the noncustodial parent arriving at the center separately before being escorted into one of the three visitation rooms with a volunteer supervisor. There will be records kept of every visit and reports to the court if necessary, Abbott said.
“We do not allow phones, and there are other certain rules that we have,” Abbott said. “We want them to have quality time with that child. They’ll either spend one hour or two hours for their visit.”
The Blue Butterfly House will also host support groups for grandparents and visitation exchanges, which is when children are exchanged between two parents who have shared custody of the child. Visits will cost a “minimal fee,” Abbott said.
The main purpose for the Blue Butterfly House is to help parents one day be reunited with their children, Debbie Heisler said. Even if all cases can’t ever end with complete reunification, Debbie Heisler said, she hopes most cases will see reunification happen with the help of the Blue Butterfly House.
“We wanted our granddaughter (Mariah) to have something positive in her future,” Debbie Heisler said. “We hope this lives on and on in the community, and maybe one day she’ll be running it. That’s our goal.”
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