Originally from Southern California, Dr. Brenda Ponsford has lived all over the United States, but when she married her longtime friend, Dr. William “Hawk” Hawkins, they settled in Knoxville to retire.
However, when Brenda learned from her friend and certified family law attorney that there is a need in the West Knoxville community for a supervised visitation facility, she sprung into action to make it a reality.
Aardvark Family Services, located at 166D Market Place Boulevard near Cedar Bluff Rd. and North Peters Rd., offers both on- and off-site supervised visitation, visitation reporting, staggered child custody exchanges, and parenting planning and support. By assisting non-custodial parents in meeting goals and staying involved in their children’s lives, they are helping families build healthy relationships and habits that will allow them to thrive together.
Unlike therapeutic visitation where families receive therapy from a certified psychologist or social worker, Aardvark Family Services allows for both court-ordered and even informal visitation arrangements with trained monitoring to promote healthy parent-child relationships. This keeps costs low while still allowing for safety and support for parents and children alike. Monitors are present with varying levels of privacy as deemed appropriate, and they help facilitate positive interaction and resolve conflict if needed. The goal is for healthy, natural relationships that eventually no longer require supervision.
Both Brenda and Hawk have co-parented after divorce, so they understand the importance of the resources Aardvark Family Services can provide.
“It is important for children to have two parents involved in their lives and know that they’re loved,” Hawk says. “We want to help parents and their children have a good relationship beyond just the legal aspects of a divorce.”
The rooms at Aardvark’s center are set up like a home, with living room spaces, a dining room for eating together or playing board games, an air hockey table, and spaces for reading together or playing with toys. Due to restrictions from COVID-19, the books will be quarantined for a time after use, and families are asked to bring their own toys, but eventually the center will be stocked with lots of materials for parents and children to play and spend quality time together. In addition, Aardvark's monitors are available for off-site visits, such as a trip to the zoo or bowling alley.
While Brenda holds a Ph.D in supply chain logistics and a JD from Concord University School of Law, it is her combined experience in business and law that opened the door for her and Hawk, whose background is in international economics and foreign affairs, to open Aardvark Family Services to serve West Knoxville. While there are other supervised visitation centers in Knoxville, “the need is greater than the capacity,” Brenda notes.
To contact Aardvark Family Services for information regarding intake or services, call (865) 850-6828 or visit AardvarkFamilyServices.com