The horrifying death of Prince McLeod Rams described in recent Post editorials highlights a serious and sometimes lethal gap in Montgomery County services for families in the throes of child abuse and domestic violence.

Montgomery County has no visitation center that judges can order parents to use in handing off their children for custody visits, under the watch of trained third parties, and providing supervised visits that keep fathers in their children’s lives while offering the protection some children desperately need.

We can’t pretend that it is always in “the best interest of the child” when a judge grants a protective order to safeguard a domestic violence victim and her children but also orders that the child immediately begin unsupervised multi-day visits with a father who has just displayed physical violence within his family. A visitation center can, at least partially, protect children and reduce the mother’s and child’s fear. It can give the abuse victim a more realistic opportunity to create a safe home for herself and her children.

We need both a visitation center all parties can afford and judges who will order families to use it. Both can play central parts in a broader plan to prevent another local father from harming or even killing his child during an unsupervised visit.

Laurie Duker, Silver Spring

The writer is executive director of Court Watch Montgomery.