6613 Maintaining Contact Between the Family and the Child

6613.1 The Right to Regular Contact

CPS November 2003 September 2007

This item has been edited for style and clarity only. Policy has not changed.

When a child in DFPS's managing conservatorship is in substitute care, the child's parents and the child have a right to maintain regular contact with each other unless:

  ·  the court restricts their contacts; or

  ·  the parents:

  ·  have executed an affidavit of relinquishment (see 5430 Voluntary Relinquishment); or

  ·  had their parental rights terminated by the court.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.1340(a)

Ending Contact if the Child Is at Risk

If the parents’ actions during their contacts with the child increase the risk of child abuse or neglect, the worker must ask the court to restrict the parents’ contacts.

6613.2 Planning for Family-Child Contact

CPS November 2003 September 2007

The worker involves the following parties in planning for parent-child contact:

  ·  Parents

  ·  Caregivers

  ·  Children over the age of eight

  ·  Therapists

  ·  Other relevant people (the child's guardian and attorney ad litem, CASA worker, and so on.)

Issues to Consider

The worker considers the following issues in addressing visitation and other contact planning between parents and child:

  ·  Court orders

  ·  Needs of the child

  ·  The permanency goal

  ·  Therapist recommendations

  ·  Supervised or unsupervised contacts

Supervised or Unsupervised Contacts

Consider whether the visits and other forms of contact should be supervised based on the needs of the child, the safety and legal issues in the case, and the parents’ behavior.

Frequency of Parent – Child Contact

Unless stated in the court order, determine with the parents, child, and foster caregivers the frequency of visits and contacts. The frequency established should support the child's needs and permanency goal, depending on available resources. The child's welfare is the first consideration.

If the permanency goal is family reunification and the case is in temporary legal status, visitation must occur face-to-face at least monthly unless it is not in the best interest of the child. Supervisory approval must be obtained to conduct fewer than the required monthly visitations.

If the goal is not family reunification and termination of parental rights has not been obtained and is not being sought, determine with the parents and caregivers what frequency is appropriate.

Regularity of Contact

Encourage the parents to be consistent in visiting the child to ease the child's anxiety about when, or if, he or she will see the parents again. This is particularly important if the permanency goal is to return the child home.

Location of Visits Contact Place

Determine where the visits should be held based on the best interest of the child and the issues in the case. Even though the worker must consider the parents’ and foster parents’ wishes about the visits, DFPS is responsible for the decisions. Visits can be supervised in a variety of settings, though some settings are more suited for supervised visits than others.

Some of the options staff may consider are:

The Foster Home

If the foster parents agree, arrange visits in the foster home. This is not considered if the relationship between the foster parents and natural parents is competitive or disruptive. Set definite limitations and ensure that all parties understand the limitations before the visit. The worker is present for the first visit by a biological parent and may need to be present during other visits.

The Child's Own Home or a Relatives Home

Arrange visits in the child's home or a relatives’ home if:

  ·  the placement will be brief;

  ·  the child and family are being prepared for the child's return; or

  ·  the child's service plan includes contact with the family and visits in the home.

The CPS Office

Arrange office visits if visits in the foster home or the child's home would not be constructive or safe. In some cases the worker  schedules office visits when children first come into care and then moves the visits elsewhere once the early office visits have proved successful. The worker is available to provide any help and support needed by the parent or the child.

Other Places

Plan visits in other designated places, such as a public park.

Privacy During Contact

Private visits may be allowed at the discretion of the worker and the supervisor depending on the issues in the case. Parents should be allowed some private time with their children if it is in the child's best interest. However, workers should be present during most visits to:

  ·  observe the interaction between the parent and child; and

  ·  structure the conversation so that the parent and the child discuss their feelings and adjustment to the separation and their future plans.

Do not allow the parents to remove the child from a designated visiting place without permission.

Types of Contact Other Than Formal Visitation

Depending on the needs of the child, the circumstances of the case, and the support of the caregivers, workers may:

  ·  arrange for parents to participate in the child's medical and dental appointments and special events at school, sports, or other activities;

  ·  work with the child's caregiver to arrange other appropriate parent-caregiver interactions that would benefit the child and help support the child's placement.

Types of Contact Other Than Face-to-Face

The plan for contact must allow for gifts, mail, and telephone calls between the parents and the child, unless such contact is not in the child's best interest or is restricted by the court.

The plan may allow for other forms of electronic communication as appropriate, if resources are available and the caregiver approves. The plan must include any form of electronic communication if ordered by the court. Electronic communication can include communication by telephone, electronic mail (email), instant messaging, videoconferencing, or webcam.

Contact With Siblings at Home, Close Relatives, and Others Identified as Appropriate

The plan must allow for contact with others that are identified as appropriate, given the needs of the child and the child's permanency goal.

Available Resources to Facilitate Contact

The worker, the parents, and the caretakers make arrangements to facilitate the contact (including visitation), based on available resources.

6613.3 Documenting Visitation, the Contact Plan, and Progress

CPS November 2003 September 2007

This item has been edited for style and clarity only. Policy has not changed.

Based on consideration of the issues related to parent-child contact and the facts of the case, the worker develops and documents the visitation and contact plan in IMPACT on the Visitation Summary, which is part of the Family Service Plan and the Child's Service Plan.

Progress is documented in the Child's Service Plan.

6613.4 Keeping Parents Informed of the Child’s Circumstances

CPS November 2003 September 2007

Unless parental rights have been terminated, workers must:

  ·  notify and encourage parents to participate in:

  ·  case plan reviews,

  ·  meetings, including permanency conferences PPT staffings, and

  ·  court hearings; and

  ·  keep the parents informed of the child's situation, including notifying the parents any time the child is transferred to a new placement.