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.
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice Standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted; however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
Procedures need strengthening; or
With few exceptions, procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations and training; or
Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
Timeframes are often missed; or
Several client records are missing important information; or
Client participation is inconsistent.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice Standards; e.g.,
No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing.
Procedures for supervising visits and/or exchanges
Procedures for managing visit/exchange logistics when relationships are characterized by conflict or abuse
Policy for prohibited behaviors and practices
Procedures for the communication of critical information
Documentation of collaboration with law enforcement
Interviews may include:
Review case records
When one-to-one supervision is provided:
parent-child contacts are observed and monitored by personnel who can see and hear all aspects of the interaction;
contacts occur in a language spoken by personnel (or, if necessary, an interpreter who accompanies personnel); and
participants are not permitted to whisper, pass notes, or use hand signals to communicate.
Supervision is considered to be one-to-one as long as there is one supervisor assigned to each individual family, regardless of the number of families present. Accordingly, if three different families are supervised by three different supervisors, that is considered to be one-to-one supervision even if all three visits are occurring simultaneously within the same room.
This standard may not always be met during intermittent supervision.
NAThe organization does not provide one-to-one supervision.
When group supervision is provided:
parent-child contacts are monitored by personnel who can see all aspects of the interaction and remain within hearing distance at all times;
contacts occur in a language spoken by personnel (or, if necessary, an interpreter who accompanies personnel);
participants are not permitted to whisper, pass notes, or use hand signals to communicate; and
the organization determines that the level of risk presented by the family is an appropriate match for the level of security provided during group supervision (i.e. it is not necessary to hear every aspect of every parent-child interaction).
When one staff member supervises multiple families at the same time, that is considered to be group supervision.
This standard may not always be met during intermittent supervision.
NAThe organization does not provide group supervision.
The organization protects physical and emotional safety during visits and exchanges by ensuring that personnel:
are aware of and familiar with any safety-related issues identified during referral and intake, including any orders for protection;
recognize and stop behaviors that violate program rules or present a risk to physical or emotional safety; and
terminate the visit or exchange if safety cannot be maintained.
In an effort to protect the well-being of children, personnel:
prepare children for what to expect, and remind them of any special restrictions or arrangements, at the start of each visit or exchange;
recognize and respond to child distress;
do not force children to participate in visits or exchanges against their will; and
notify all relevant parties, and suspend services pending resolution of the issue, if problems persist and there are concerns that service continuation may be harmful to children’s safety and well-being.
Examples: Strategies for responding to distress and handling refusals to visit may vary. For example, an organization might respond to a child’s distress by calling a time-out from a visit, and contacting the court to recommend assessment if the problem does not resolve itself over time. Similarly, an organization might respond to a refusal to visit by working with the child to explore his or her feelings, working with parents or caregivers to devise strategies that might make the child more amenable to participating, involving others (e.g., a case worker or another family member), and referring the case back to the court if the refusals continue.
If the relationship between the visiting parent and custodial parent or caregiver is characterized by conflict or abuse, the organization:
staggers arrivals and departures so the parties do not come into contact with one another; and
collaborates with victims to ensure plans for arrival and departure meet their needs, when cases involve domestic violence.
Examples: Organizations serving family law cases often arrange for the visiting parent to arrive 15 minutes before a visit, and remain on-site for 15 minutes after the child and custodial parent have departed. It is often supposed that this practice will promote safety in domestic violence cases by preventing the perpetrator, who is assumed to be the visiting parent, from harassing or attacking the victim, who is assumed to be the custodial parent. However, in cases where the perpetrator has custody of the child and the victim is the visiting parent, the organization may need to modify its procedures in order to promote safety. Similarly, in some cases victims of violence may wish to establish alternative arrival and departure arrangements in order to protect their safety – for example, a victim may wish to arrive first at the program, or identify an alternate driver who will bring children in for services.
Organization policy prohibits:
corporal punishment, including spanking or hitting a child;
emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse;
leaving a child unattended with a visitor, except pursuant to a court order;
bringing weapons to the program;
threats against a child or the other parent or caregiver;
engaging in negative discussions or making derogatory comments about the other parent or caregiver;
asking a child for information about the other parent;
using a child to send messages to the other parent; and
asking a child where he or she is living or attending school.
Element (c) does not apply during intermittent supervision. Element (d) does not apply to armed security officers who are employed by the organization.
Examples: Given the potential for perpetrators of domestic violence to use gifts to send messages to the other parent or manipulate family members, some organizations may prohibit perpetrators from giving gifts or other items to children.
When a case involves allegations of sexual abuse the organization evaluates the case for potential triggers, and provides one-to-one supervised visitation and policy prohibits the alleged perpetrator from:
photographing, videotaping, or audiotaping the child;
engaging in extended physical contact with the child;
diapering the child or assisting with the bathroom; or
bringing gifts, money, or other objects from home.
If the organization does not consider food to be an “object from home” and therefore does not prohibit alleged perpetrators from bringing food to visits, it should carefully consider whether the food might be a possible trigger for the abuse before allowing it to be brought in.
NAThe organization provides only supervised exchange services.
Examples: Extended physical contact may include, but is not limited to: lap sitting, hair combing, snuggling, tickling, rough housing, and prolonged hugging. Even brief physical contact is typically only permitted if initiated by the child.
Personnel facilitate the communication of critical information by:
relaying information between the visiting parent and custodial parent or caregiver about the child’s special needs;
notifying the child’s custodian if the child is injured during the visit or exchange; and
informing the child’s parent if an incident that occurred during visitation or exchange poses a risk to the parent.
If an investigation is ongoing, an organization may be directed not to implement elements (b) and (c) of the standard.
Personnel support parents and children by incorporating feedback, education, and discussion into their interactions with families.
Although staff will facilitate and support the parent-child relationship, interventions should not rise to the level of those provided during therapeutic supervised visitation, as described in SVE 8.
When an organization serves family law cases and this type of assistance will be provided to the non-custodial parent, it may also be wise to work with the custodial parent, especially if he or she is opposed to the non-custodial parent receiving this support. If the custodial parent believes this type of assistance compromises the balance of services and the situation is not addressed, the child may experience a loyalty conflict that results in distress or refusals to visit.
NAThe program is not designed to incorporate assistance into supervision.
Examples: While some organizations may provide this type of assistance within the context of a formal supportive supervised visitation program designed to help parents improve their parenting skills and abilities, others may simply allow personnel to incorporate these strategies in an informal manner in an effort to create opportunities for change. Examples of assistance may include, but are not limited to: providing education about appropriate parenting skills and practices, suggesting age-appropriate activities, modeling appropriate interactions with children, giving feedback that is informed by child development, providing positive feedback, helping parents and children work through difficult interactions, and talking with parents about why and how conversations may be re-directed. These strategies may be included both during visits and during check-in sessions that may occur before or after visits.
Intermittent supervised visitation is provided only when it is:
used to help service recipients assume responsibility, typically as a step-down service following fully-supervised visits;
determined that the level of risk presented by the family is an appropriate match for the level of security provided during intermittent supervision; and
specifically approved by the court or referring agency.
In intermittent supervised visitation the personnel supervising a visit will go in and out of the room where the visit is occurring, intentionally leaving the parent and child alone for certain periods of time rather than observing the visit continuously. During the periods of time that the supervisor is out of the room, the typical requirements of supervised visitation will not be met.
NAThe organization does not provide intermittent supervised visitation.
The organization collaborates with law enforcement to establish the response that can be expected in case an emergency arises.
This will be especially important if the organization does not have security officers on staff, or if the organization provides off-site supervision. If law enforcement is unwilling to establish an agreement or even specify the response that can be expected in case of emergency, the organization should at least be able to demonstrate that it has made significant efforts to reach out to and forge connections with law enforcement.