Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Visitation Stress

Parent / Child visitation is one of the most controversial issues that I deal with in Child Welfare. Today I spent over 45 minutes on the phone with a foster parent, mostly going around in circles about visits. I also had an awkward conversation with a birth mom about whether or not she will get to see her child on the actual holidays. Nothing seems to get people as riled up as the ins and outs of how visits work. I see it in the blog-o-sphere too. Mostly its about how visits work when children are in foster care. But also sometimes about how visits should look after adoption. (Both foster-adoption or domestic open adoption) There are always a range of opinions and questions about visits.

What are visits like?
When should they increase?
What is "normal" behavior after children return from visits?
When should visits be cut back?
Who should decide when visits are scheduled?
Who should participate in visits?
What should the "rules" of visits be?
How do visits change as a case nears reunification?
How do visits change as a case nears termination/adoption?

I want to write a post (or maybe a series of posts) about visitation. What questions do you all have? Foster parents? Social workers? Birth parents? Which of the above do you really want to hear about? Are there other questions or concerns that you've wondered about? Please give me feedback!


  1. Oh please answer all those questions above. I would LOVE to hear a social worker's perspective on visits.

    I think they are absolutely necessary! However, I'm dealing with the aftermath of a visit right now. And since the case I'm dealing with is likely to end in termination, I question how healthy visits with the mom really are. Especially since they have to be heavily monitored by CPS due to Mom's inability to remain appropriate. (She's constantly doing things during visits that aren't allowed. Things like inspecting the children from head to toe for abuse. Freaking out when the children talk about playing. Telling the children that no one loves them except her. Trying to figure out where the children are staying at. And, during the most recent visit her 2yo so got a horrible blood blister on his thumb that no one can explain. He told me that his mom hit him.)

    The county where I live has such limited funding that all court ordered visits have been dropped to only one time a month for only one hour. I think that's positively horrific! If a case is going towards reunification kids need to see their family more often than once a month. The other little girl we're caring for has more aftermath that lasts longer now that the visits have been cut back to only 1x a month. She did so much better when they were 2x a week for 2 hours each time.

    I'd love to hear ALL your thoughts!!   :)

  2. I see this as a series of posts.
    1.  Visit Logistics:  What happens at visits, recommended frequency, who attends, who dictates schedule, what to do when foster parents supervise, etc.
    2.  Visit behavior:  (maybe break into bio parents and foster parents)  What are "normal" child reactions, when should foster and bio parents meet, what are parents told before the first meeting, why do foster kids still see parents still on drugs, transportation, safety, etc.
    3.  Visit Scheduling:  changes near termination, post-adoption etc.

    And what exactly is considered "inappropriate?" Where is that line?  Sometimes I feel that these parents are in the system because they don't have common sense to know that giving a baby a toy with small parts could harm them.  What direction is given to them to help them be better parents long enough to get their kids back?

  3. I'd love to hear your thoughts about post-adoption visits. In our case, we adopted our daughter (now 6, then 4, with us since 1) after her mother's rights were terminated, and her father was determined to be unknown. 

    It was not an open adoption. 

    However, during our time as the foster parents, we got to know her mom- and other members of her family. We currently maintain connections with our daughter's mom,  great-aunt, and a few cousins. I've ended contact between her and her grandparents. The problem I have is that her mom makes promises (I'll see you for your birthday) and breaks them. She disappears for months on end, and then calls. During visits she loudly (in front of our daughter) criticizes my parenting and our daughter's gender expression (she's quite a tomboy). I'm left believing, academically, that it is crucially important for a child to know her mother and that it is wrong to stand in the way of that relationship and wondering, personally, if it really is to our daughter's benefit to continue this. 

    Everyone else in my family thinks I'm nuts for having our daughter see her mom at all, so I have little support for the "keep things going side", although they do trust me that at least for now I believe it's important. 

    All this boils down to the question, how do you know it's right to maintain these difficult relationships? How do you defend that decision to yourself and to (important) others?

  4. My question comes from a non-foster care place.  I don't have a real formal in writing anything regarding what our open adoption will look like.  When it was asked of me, before I signed TPR, what I wanted it to look like I had no idea.  What I've come to feel true about since is that it needs to be a evolving relationship for all of our sakes.  I think all four of us (my son's parents, me and my son) need to know both that we can take a step back if life gets in the way and that we're all in it for the long haul even if one of us does withdraw for a bit.

    But with that I have had times where I thought a more formal agreement would be better for me, where I want more consistent contact at times, and I think an actual formal agreement might help with that.  It would be nice to get an update regularly even if they choose to contact me between updates, or we have visits between updates, but knowing I would receive pictures at a specific time with an actual update would be really nice.

    I'm curious coming from a background in foster care where I imagine most openness relationships are based on more formal contracts how do you deal with the evolving relationships?  Do you find with no formal agreement that there are more issues with flexibility, or do you feel that having a minimum agreement in place creates a structure which helps these sorts of relationships?


Join in the conversation! Please leave a comment!