4254. Family Time and Sibling and Relative Visits

Original Date: July 26, 2008

Revised Date: July 25, 2021

Sunset Review: July 25, 2025

Approved by: Jody Becker, Deputy Secretary


Purpose 

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance when children or youth in the placement, care, and authority (PCA) of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) are visiting with parents or guardians or visiting with family members.

  • Early, consistent, and frequent visitation is crucial for maintaining parent-child relationships and making it possible for parents and children to safely reunify.
  • Visitation is the right of the family, including the child and youth and the parent or guardian, in cases in which visitation is in the best interest of the child.
  • Family time and visits must have the proper level of supervision to ensure child safety and to move toward permanency.
  • Family time and relative visitation plans should be developed timely and occur in the least restrictive setting based on risk factors, existing danger, safety threats, and protective factors.

Scope

This policy applies to child welfare employees.

Laws

RCW 13.34.025  Child dependency cases, Coordination of services and Remedial services

RCW 13.34.030  Definitions

RCW 13.34.065  Shelter Care Hearing

RCW 13.34.130  Order of Disposition for a Dependent Child, Alternatives

RCW 13.34.136  Permanency Plan of Care

RCW 13.34.138  Review hearings-Findings-Duties of parties involved-In-home placement requirements-Housing assistance.

RCW 13.34.200  Order Terminating Parent and Child Relationship

RCW 13.38.040  Definitions

Policy

  1. Family Time
    1. Family time provides the parents or guardians and children and youth time to interact. Family time must meet the visit requirements in chapter 13.34 RCW.
    2. Family time must be face-to-face, which includes parents or guardians who are incarcerated:
      1. If extenuating circumstances exist, which include but are not limited to threats to child safety, inclement weather affecting safe travel, illness, and distance.
      2. Other forms of approved family time when extenuating circumstances exist or to supplement face-to-face family time includes, but are not limited to:
        1. Telephone contact.
        2. Electronic contact through video chat or email.
    3. Family time must be in the least restrictive setting and unsupervised unless the presence of threats and danger to the child requires the constant presence of an adult to ensure the safety of the child. 
    4. For VPAs for children who are not members of or are not eligible for membership in a federally recognized tribe from Washington state, efforts must be made to hold an initial family time within 72 hours and no later than five calendar days from the VPA being signed.
    5. Emergent 72-Hour Initial Visits for Family Time
      1. Emergent 72-hour initial visits must be conducted:
        1. Within 72 hours of the child or youth’s placement and care authority in DCYF, including weekends and holidays, unless the court finds that there are extraordinary circumstances that require a delay.
        2. For up to two hours and not exceed two hours.
        3. Supervised, unless determined that supervision is unnecessary.
      2. Emergent 72-hour initial visits may be conducted using a contracted provider. This includes creating a one-time emergent referral in FamLink when a contracted provider is being used.
    6. Ongoing Family Time
      1. Develop a family time plan at the first Family Team Decision Making meeting (FTDM), when placement is being considered or a child is in a court-ordered placement (licensed or unlicensed). The family time plan is effective for up to 60 calendar days from the child’s initial placement.
      2. Ongoing family time visit plans must be generated in FamLink separately from the emergent 72-hour initial visit.
      3. Family times need to be determined as unsupervised, monitored, or supervised prior to each court hearing.
    7. Family time cannot be:
      1. Limited due to the parent’s lack of compliance with dependency court orders or failure to participate in services.
      2. Denied based on the parent’s incarceration.
      3. Limited or denied, unless the court determines that limitations or denial is necessary to protect the child’s health, safety and welfare.
    8. Family time visit plans will be developed in consultation with all the following:
      1. Parent
      2. Youth 14 years and older
      3. Out-of-home caregiver
      4. Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)
      5. The child’s attorney, if appointed
      6. Tribal worker, as applicable
      7. Any other people identified by the parent
    9. Ongoing assessments of risk and safety and review of family time plans will occur until the child returns home or permanency is achieved.
      1. Family time plans will be reviewed at all shared planning meetings and monthly supervisory case reviews.
      2. If the court orders a psychosexual evaluation for a parent and the family time plan is reassessed because of the evaluation, the court must approve the plan as it relates to duration, level of supervision, and location of family time.
      3. Concerted efforts must be made to consult with law enforcement before recommending changes to family time or sibling visits when a parent or sibling has been identified as a suspect in an active criminal investigation for a violent crime that may impact child safety in relation to family time or sibling visits.
      4. Consult with the AAG before sharing any information received from law enforcement about the parent or sibling suspect or investigation.
      5. The caseworker will observe at least one family time per quarter which will meet that month’s health and safety requirement, as long as the other requirements of a health and safety visit are met. Individual conversations between the caseworker and child or parent may occur before or after the family time.
      6. If family time needs to be rescheduled, all participants must be notified.
    10. Family time will be discontinued if parental rights are terminated or relinquished.
  2. Sibling visits
    1. Children placed apart from their siblings will have two or more face-to-face visits or contacts per month, unless there is an approved exception, as listed in Procedures Section 4.
    2. Additional approved forms of sibling contact are encouraged to support and maintain sibling relationships. Approved forms of contact include, but are not limited to:
      1. Telephone contact.
      2. Electronic contact through video chat or email.
    3. Ongoing visitation is encouraged to promote and maintain the continuity of sibling relationships that existed prior to placement. This includes siblings who:
      1. Remained in the home at the time of removal.
      2. Aged out of foster care.
      3. Returned home.
      4. Are placed with a non-custodial parent.
      5. Lived part-time in the home at the time of the sibling’s removal.
    4. Sibling contact during family time meets the requirement for a sibling visit.
    5. Shared planning meetings or court events do not meet the requirement for a sibling visit.
    6. The first sibling visit must occur as soon as possible after placement.
    7. Sibling visits will continue after a parent’s rights are terminated or relinquished unless an approved exception applies.
    8. Sibling visits cannot be limited or used as a sanction for a child’s behavior or as an incentive to change a child’s behavior.
    9. Sibling visit plans will be developed within 14 calendar days and in consultation with the out-of-home caregiver and child, when developmentally appropriate, unless an approved exception applies.
  3. Other Relative Visits
    1. Determine if any relative is awarded court-ordered visitation with a child in the PCA of DCYF. 
    2. If a relative is awarded court-ordered visitation, the caseworker must:  
      1. Obtain a copy of the visitation orders by either:
        1. Asking the parent for a copy.
        2. Asking the relative for a copy.
        3. Contacting the county where the court orders were established.
      2. Identify the court ordered visitation participants, frequency, duration, and location of visits.
      3. Consult with the AAG regarding DCYF’s responsibility to comply with the court order.
      4. Confirm that visitation participants meet the requirements of the DCYF background check policy. Consult with the AAG to determine options when the participant does not meet background check policy.
    3. If a relative seeks court-ordered visitation after the child is placed in the PCA of DCYF, the caseworker must:
      1. Consult with the AAG to determine options when a relative petitions the court for visitation during out-of-home placement.
      2. Verify the relative meets background check requirements and consult with the AAG when a relative does not pass a background check.
  4. Contracted Family Time
    1. Family time visits may be conducted by a contracted provider. This includes when the request is only to provide transportation.
    2. All contracted family time service referrals are created in Famlink and managed through Sprout.

Procedures

  1. Developing Visit Plans for Family Time, Sibling Visits, or Other Relative Visits
    1. After hours supervisors must complete the following when requesting a contracted provider for emergent 72-hour initial visits:
      1. Complete the emergent 72-hour initial visit plan/referral in FamLink within three hours of the child’s or youth’s PCA with DCYF.
      2. Follow the Emergent 72-Hour Initial Visit Plan/Referral Quick Help Guide.
      3. Assign another after hours employee to complete the visit if the provider is unable to accept the referral.
    2. Caseworkers must:
      1. Create family time visit plans on all children placed in DCY custody, regardless if a contracted provider is being used. For:
        1. Emergent 72-hour initial visits:
          1. Complete the emergent 72-hour initial Visit Plan/Referral in FamLink within three hours of the child’s or youth’s PCA into DCYF.
          2. Follow the procedures outlined in the Emergent 72-Hour Initial Visit Plan/Referral Quick Help Guide.
          3. If the provider is unable to accept the emergent 72-hour referral, conduct the visit or coordinate with their supervisor to determine if other resources are available.
        2. Ongoing family time visit plans, which are three to six month plans, follow the Visit Plan/Referral Training Material to create a Visit Plan/Referral in FamLink.
      2. Determine if a contracted or non-contracted provider is needed to assist with monitored or supervised family time or transportation. A non-contracted provider includes, but not limited to, one of the following:
        1. Family member
        2. Suitable other
        3. Foster parent
        4. Other caseworkers
      3. Develop a written family time plan that includes the:
        1. Level of supervision as determined by the Safety Assessment policy.
        2. Location. The location and scheduling of family time must be:
          1. In the least restrictive setting with consideration given to the parent and child’s schedules and culture.
          2. In the child’s community whenever possible.
          3. In an age appropriate setting that supports safety of the child.
          4. At the DCYF office when needed to protect the child’s safety or when support before or during family time is needed
        3. Frequency
        4. Duration
        5. Transportation
        6. Any other necessary details.​
      4. Determine who may participate or supervise family time by:
        1. Completing a background check request and FamLink check for any visit participant 16 years or older, per the Background Check policy. This includes family supports who are available to monitor, supervise, or transport the child for family time.
        2. Obtaining supervisor approval before allowing contact between the child and a parent who is a perpetrator in serious physical or sexual abuse cases.
      5. Verify all non-contracted persons supervising or monitoring family time, or transporting children meet the following criteria:
        1. Approved background and FamLink checks per the background check policy.
        2. Valid driver’s license if transporting. The transportation vehicle must be registered, insured, and equipped with approved child restraints, e.g., car seat, lap, and shoulder belts.
        3. Willing and able to intervene to keep the child safe.
        4. Able to prioritize the safety and well-being of the child.
        5. Willing and able to enforce visit rules, court orders, limitations, and activities.
        6. Maintain confidentiality.
        7. Report observations during visits and transports to the caseworker, e.g., behaviors, interactions, and concerns.
      6. Review family time plans at all shared planning meetings and monthly supervisory case reviews and assess the following:
        1. Changes needed in the level of supervision based on risk factors or safety threats and safety planning.
        2. Changes in permanency plan or legal status.
        3. Changes in the well-being of the child.
        4. Progress and compliance with services and any impacts on risk, changes to the family time plan to increase the frequency and move to unsupervised, if not already occurring, within a minimum of 90 calendar days of a proposed trial return home.
        5. Recommendations to limit or terminate family time when one or more of the following conditions occur:
          1. Therapist recommends decreasing or suspending family time due to harm to the child.
          2. The child is at risk of physical or emotional harm due to the family time.
          3. The child’s educational progress is negatively impacted by the duration and frequency of family time during school hours.
          4. The supervisor or monitor of family time is threatened.
          5. The parent appears to be under the influence of substances. The family time may be stopped immediately but may resume after review of the family time plan.
      7. Prior to changing a family time plan:
        1. Review recommended changes with the parent, youth age 14 and older, caregiver, and supervisor.
        2. Inform the AAG of recommended changes.
        3. Inform the court of any changes in the family time plan in dependency cases.
          1. A court hearing is required prior to changing the family time plan, unless the child’s safety is jeopardized or the court order allows changes to the plan without a hearing.
          2. If a court has ordered family time to occur and it will not occur as ordered, contact the AAG immediately to determine if an emergency hearing is needed.
      8. Document in FamLink:
        1. A visit plan for each child or youth including:
          1. Family time by:
            1. Following the Safety Assessment policy.
            2. Selecting the “parent/child visit” visit type.
          2. Sibling visits, as applicable.
        2. Family time non-contracted occurrences in a case note and include the following:
          1. Date, time, and location of family time
          2. Participants in the family time
          3. Form of contact, e.g., face-to-face, in-person, video chat, or email
          4. Use one or more of the following types: Date, time, and location of family time:
            1. Visit-Supervised
            2. Visit-Unsupervised
            3. Visit-With Sibling
            4. Visit-Cancelled-No Make Up Required
            5. Visit-Did not occur. No Show
            6. Visit-Monitored
        3. When family time includes a sibling, use both family time and sibling visit case note types to record the visit.
        4. Non-contracted family time information obtained from approved natural supports in File Upload.
  2. For All Contracted Family Time Services Managed in Sprout
    1. Caseworkers and after-hours supervisors must create the following referrals when requesting a contracted provider for services:
      1. Caseworkers or after-hours supervisors must create emergent 72-hour initial visit plan/referrals.
      2. Caseworkers only must create referrals for:
        1. Ongoing family time
        2. Separate sibling visit referrals if siblings are not visiting the parents together.
    2. Caseworkers must:
      1. Maintain all contracted visitation reports in Sprout.
      2. Not:
        1. Download, print, scan or file upload contract provider visit reports into FamLink.
        2. Enter case notes referencing visits that are supported by contracted providers.
  3. Sibling Visits
    To conduct sibling visits, the caseworker must:
    1. Develop a written plan that includes the level of supervision, location, frequency, duration, transportation, and any other necessary details.
    2. Determine the level of supervision and necessity for sibling visits based on:
      1. Age of the children.
      2. Children's perspective and input for youth 14 and over.
      3. Best interests of the children, including safety, health, and well-being.
    3. Review the sibling visit plan with case participants when there is:
      1. An increase or decrease in safety threats.
      2. A change in circumstances which causes an approved exception to apply and obtain supervisor approval when an exception applies.
      3. A change in circumstances when the reason for the exception no longer exists.
      4. A change in the well-being of the child.
    4. Review the sibling visit plan and any recommended changes:
      1. During all shared planning meetings and monthly supervisory case reviews.
      2. During monthly health and safety and caregiver visits.
    5. Document in FamLink:
      1. A visit plan for each child.
      2. All sibling visits or contacts in a case note including the following:
        1. Date, time, and location of visit.
        2. Participants in the visit.
        3. Type of contact, e.g., in-person visit, phone call, video chat, or email.
      3. Use the following case note type:
        1. Visit-with siblings
        2. Use both family time and sibling visit case note types when it includes the child's parent and sibling.
      4. Upload non-contracted family time information obtained from approved natural supports.
  4. Exceptions for Sibling Visits
    1. When sibling visits are not occurring, the approved exception or reason must be documented and approved by the caseworker's supervisor. Approved exceptions are:
      1. A court order prevents or limits visits or contacts.
      2. DCYF determines visits or contacts are contrary to the child's health, safety, or well-being.
      3. DCYF determines visits or contacts will hinder reunification efforts.
      4. Child or sibling are developmentally able to determine their needs for sibling contact and request that contact occur less than two times per month, or not at all.
      5. Parent of a non-dependent sibling objects to or wishes to limit visits or contacts with the dependent sibling.
      6. The facility where the child or sibling resides prohibits or limits visits or contacts with siblings, e.g., during an intake period at an in-patient facility.
      7. Child is on the run from their placement for a majority of the calendar month.
      8. Child is not complying with visitation arrangements.
    2. Document for all exceptions or other reasons siblings are not having visits or contacts in the Sibling or Incarcerated Parent Visit Details tab on the Visit Plan and Referral page and obtain supervisor approval in FamLink.
  5. Approvals
    1. Caseworkers must:
      1. Send emergent 72-hour initial visit referrals to supervisors for approval within three hours of PCA.
      2. Send visit plans for family time, sibling visits, and other relatives visits to supervisors for approval.
      3. Send requests for exceptions to sibling visits to supervisors for approval.
      4. Review ongoing family time visit plans at least every six months to determine the level of supervision.
        1. The referral for monitored or supervised family time must include an explanation or evidence establishing that removing visit supervision or monitoring would create a risk to the child’s safety. Provide explanations or evidence of the following:
          1. Why family time cannot be unsupervised.
          2. Why family time is not being supervised by a no-contracted provider.
          3. Any continued risk factors or safety threat to the child or youth.
        2. If the court approved the extension of monitored or supervised visits per chapter 13.34 RCW, update the referral in FamLink and submit reauthorization to supervisors for approval.
    2. Supervisors must:
      1. Review emergent 72-hour initial visit referrals for approval within one hour from the time the caseworker sent the referral.
      2. Review visit plans for approval in FamLink for family time, sibling visits, or other relative visits.
      3. For all referrals:
        1. If approved, select the “Approved” box. If a contracted provider is needed, once the referral is approved it will generate and reroute through Sprout.
        2. If not approved, select the next step in the choices listed in FamLink. In the comment box, indicate the reason why the request was not approved.
      4. Review all reauthorizations and forward to the area administrator (AA) for approval every six months.
      5. Review all requests for exceptions for sibling visits.
        1. If approved, submit to the AA.
        2. If not approved, return to the caseworker.
    3. AAs must review and approve visit plans in FamLink for:
      1. Reauthorizations of monitored or supervised family time every six months. This includes reviewing the caseworker’s explanation and reasoning and if:
        1. Approved, select “approved” on the visit plan.
        2. If not approved, send the visit plan back to the supervisor with comments.
      2. Exceptions to sibling visits:
        1. Verify that the exception meets the criteria for an approved exception and approve it.
        2. If not an approved exception, deny the exception and send it back to the supervisor with comments.

Forms

Child Specific Caregiver Notification DCYF 15-450

Comprehensive Family Evaluation DCYF 10-480

Family Time/Sibling Visit Report DCYF 15-448

Missed and No Show Report Family Time/Sibling Visit DCYF 15-451

Monitoring Review Report – On-Site Visit DCYF 15-462

Provider Notification of Family Time/Sibling Visit Transport Schedule Initial Intake Screening Report DCYF 15-363B

Safety Assessment/Safety Plan DCYF 15-258 form

Sibling Visit Report DCYF 15-452

Supervision Level Family Time Resource Guide DCYF 10-031 form (Located on the DCYF Forms Repository on the DCYF intranet)

Unusual Incident Report DCYF 15-454

Visit Plan DCYF 15-209C

Visit Referral DCYF 15-363 (Located on the DCYF Forms Repository on the DCYF intranet)

Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA) DCYF 09-004B

Resources

Caregiver Tip Sheet DCYF 22-1714

Caseworker Tip Sheet DCYF 22-1716

Child Safety Framework (located on the Child Safety Framework DCYF intranet page)

Emergent 72-Hour Initial Visit Plan/Referral Quick Help Guide (located on the DCYF CA intranet)

Parent Tip Sheet DCYF 22-1715

Present Danger Guide (located on the Child Safety Framework DCYF intranet page)

Protective Action Guide (located on the Child Safety Framework DCYF intranet page)

Safety Assessment policy

Safety Plan Analysis Guide (located on the Child Safety Framework DCYF intranet page)

Safety Threats Guide (located on the Child Safety Framework DCYF intranet page)

Safety Threshold Guide (located on the Child Safety Framework DCYF intranet page)

Visit Plan/Referral Training Material (located on the DCYF CA intranet)