Standards for Canadian organizations

2020 Edition

Supervised Visitation and Exchange Services Definition


Supervised Visitation and Exchange Services enable children to maintain connections with parents with whom they are not living by protecting the physical and emotional safety of the children and their families.


Supervised Visitation and Exchange Services arrange for non-residential parents to have access to their children in a safe and impartial setting under the observation of a third party who is responsible for intervening as needed to promote safety. Services are typically ordered by the court or another referring agency in child protection or family law cases when contact with the non-residential parent may present a risk to the child or to the other parent. In some cases supervised contact may be arranged with other non-residential family members, such as grandparents or siblings. Services can be provided on- or off-site, and may include: 
Supervised Visitation: Personnel providing supervised visitation observe parent-child visits and protect children and parents from physical and emotional harm by enforcing certain ground rules and safety measures. This includes both one-to-one supervision, in which personnel are assigned to supervise one family at a time, and group supervision, in which personnel may supervise several families at a time. While basic supervised visitation is often focused only on preventing harm, some organizations may be more facilitative in their interventions to create opportunities for change.

Supportive Supervised Visitation: This type of supervised visitation includes a structured program of feedback, discussion, and education specifically designed to support the parent-child relationship by helping parents improve their parenting skills and abilities.

Therapeutic Supervised Visitation: This type of supervised visitation employs therapeutic and educational interventions in order to support the development of healthier parent-child relationships. Therapeutic supervised visitation should only be provided by licensed or registered mental health or social work professionals.

Supervised Exchange: This involves the supervised transfer of children from one parent or caregiver to the other parent immediately before and after an unsupervised visit.


The term “caregiver” is used throughout the standards to refer to a non-parental caregiver. This can include a relative or other kinship caregiver, a guardian, a foster parent, or a residential treatment service provider. COA also recognizes that in some instances organizations may only have contact with the child’s caseworker, rather than the child’s caregiver.


Viewing: CA-SVE - Supervised Visitation and Exchange Services


Examples: The precise purpose of services may vary somewhat depending upon the type of case served. For example, within the context of child protection, visitation is mandated in order to support the ultimate goal of reunifying the child with his or her parents. In contrast, in family law cases there is no goal of reunifying the family. Similarly, the purpose of service may also differ based on the type of supervision provided. For example, while the most basic level of supervised visitation simply prevents harm during parent-child contacts, supportive supervision is designed to help parents improve their parenting skills and abilities.
Note: Please see the CA-SVE Reference List for the research that informed the development of these standards.

Note: For information about changes made in the 2020 Edition, please see the SVE Crosswalk.