When a parent is unfit to spend time alone with their children their visits must be spent in the presence of a responsible adult - this called Supervised Visitation. Supervised visitation can be a complicated but sometimes necessary.
When are supervised visits necessary? In certain circumstances, a parent may be deemed not ready to spend alone time with their child. This can be due to a history of drug abuse or domestic violence, or even when there has been a significant gap in contact with the child. The goal of supervised visitation is to allow the parent to stay connected with his/her child. In certain circumstances such as mental or emotional limitations that limit a parent's ability to care for their children but the child benefits from regular visits - in these circumstances long-term visitation may be in orders.
Parameters are usually placed around supervised visitation based on the circumstances of a case, the parent's conditions and then age of the child. Sometimes these visits are restricted to a courthouse with close monitoring. However, supervised visits in courthouses or other sterile environments may be awkward and uncomfortable for your child. So, when deemed safe for the children a responsible family member can take responsibility and freedom is given to visit with the child in a home. However, while the court may not mandate a visit in the courthouse, they may state that the supervisor be a neutral party (and not a relative or friend). So, there are companies available such as The Assurance Group (link) that offer a controlled visits that support the child's comfort. This can include trips to parks and zoos, a trip to the mall or a restaurant.
What is the role of the professional supervisor at the time of the visits? Non-custodial parents with visitation rights may need help to ensure their behavior remains appropriate when spending time with children. Supervisors observe and document behavior and are trained to intervene should it deem necessary.
Most importantly the supervisors are on hand to ease anxiety and provide relief to the custodial parent, non-custodial parent, and to the children. When supervision is mandated it is for the child's safety and welfare but can be a burden on all involved. Having an impartial third party partner with your family through this time will ease tension and make the experience more enjoyable for your children, which should be your focus.