4254. Family Time and Sibling and Relative Visits

Original Date: July 26, 2008

Revised Date: October 31, 2019

Sunset Review: October 31, 2023

Approved by: Jody Becker, Deputy Secretary of Children and Families


Purpose 

To provide guidance on how to arrange and monitor consistent and frequent family time, when children and parents are visiting or when children are visiting with family members. 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 caseworkers.

Laws

RCW 9.94A.030  Definitions
RCW 13.34.025  Child dependency cases, Coordination of services and Remedial services
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 13.34.200  Order Terminating Parent and Child Relationship
RCW 13.38.040  Definitions

Policy

  1. Family Time
    1. Family time provides the parents and children time to interact. Family time must meet the visitation requirements in chapter 13.34 RCW.
    2. Family time must be face-to-face, which includes parents 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. Efforts must be made to hold an initial family time within 72 hours of the child’s initial out-of-home placement and no later than five calendar days from initial out-of-home placement or signing of a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA), unless there are documented safety concerns prohibiting the visit.
    4. 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.  Decisions about whether family time is unsupervised, monitored, or supervised must consider all of the following:
      1. Risk factors
      2. Present danger
      3. Safety threats
      4. Protective factors demonstrated by the parent
    5. Family time must be supervised when any of the following conditions exist and the physical, psychological, or emotional safety of the child requires the constant presence of an adult who can safely supervise the family time:
      1. The allegations of abuse or neglect of the child resulted in injuries requiring medical treatment, evaluation, or assessment. This includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.
      2. There is an allegation that the child was sexually abused.
      3. The abuse appears to be deliberate or premeditated.
      4. The allegations of abuse included multiple victims.
      5. The parent can provide no plausible explanation for the child’s injury.
      6. The child expresses or demonstrates extreme fear of their parent.
      7. The parent’s view of their child is bizarre or unusual to the degree that what they say, about or to the child, causes emotional or psychological harm. Examples include the parent’s belief that the child is possessed or is a threat to the parent.
      8. There is an active law enforcement investigation of the abuse or neglect.
      9. The parent is unable to provide the basic care required for a child based on the child’s development, special need, or disability.
      10. The parent may flee with the child.
    6. Family Time 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
    7. Family Time Plans must be:
      1. Completed in FamLink using the Visit Plan icon located under Treatment Planning. Select “parent/child visit” for family time or “sibling visits” as applicable.
      2. Provided to the parent and dependency court. If family time is supervised or monitored family time, clearly state the reason for the level of supervision necessary to keep the child safe in the plan.
    8. Develop an initial 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.
    9. Review the initial family time plan at the shared planning meeting held after shelter care and no later than 30 calendar days prior to the scheduled fact finding hearing per shared planning meeting policy.
    10. Develop the family time plan at the time the VPA is signed and the child is placed pursuant to a VPA.
    11. Ongoing reassessment 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 assistant attorney general (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.
    12. Family time can only be limited or terminated to protect the child’s safety, health, or well-being. 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.
    13. 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 (3.).
    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 care and custody of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (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 relative for a copy.
        2. Asking the parent 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 care and custody 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.

Procedures

  1. To complete the family time plan the caseworker must:
    1. Determine whether family time will be unsupervised, monitored, or supervised.
      ​Types of family time include:
      1. Unsupervised which requires parents to:
        1. Be able to demonstrate the willingness and ability to safely care for the child for the duration of the family time.
        2. Be the primary caregivers.
        3. Protect the child from any safety threats.
      2. Monitored which requires parents to be the primary caregiver during family time, while an approved adult is available to periodically observe and intervene if needed. The parent must demonstrate the willingness and ability to manage any safety threats and safely care for the child during family time.
      3. Supervised which requires an approved adult to maintain line of sight and sound supervision and intervene if needed.
      4. For monitored or supervised family times, if approved by DCYF the parent’s natural supports can act as monitors or supervisors before considering paid providers or caseworkers.
    2. Develop a written family time plan that includes the level of supervision, location, frequency, duration, transportation, and any other necessary details.
      ​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. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Create a referral for all supervised and monitored family time, paid or unpaid, in FamLink.
    8. Review the family time referral every six months. If supervised or monitored are continuing, update the referral in FamLink and resubmit the reauthorization for supervisor approval.
      1. The referral for supervised or monitored family time must include an explanation of:
        1. Why family time cannot be unsupervised.
        2. Why family time is not being supervised by a non-contracted provider, if using a paid provider.
        3. Any continued risk factors or safety threats to the child.
    9. Document in FamLink:
      1. Efforts made to consult with law enforcement regarding 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.
      2. Consultation with the AAG prior to the dissemination of any information about the parent or sibling suspect shared by law enforcement.
      3. Visit Plans for each child including:
        1. Family time, with visit type “parent/child visit”.
        2. Sibling visits, as applicable.
      4. Family time 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:
          1. Visit-Supervised
          2. Visit-SW Parent (Father)
          3. Visit-SW Parent (Mother)
          4. Visit-SW Parent (Mother/Father)
          5. Visit-Unsupervised
          6. Visit-With Sibling
          7. Visit-Cancelled-No Make Up Required
          8. Visit-Did not occur. No Show
          9. Visit-Monitored
        5. When family time includes a sibling, use both family time and sibling visit case note types to record the visit.
        6. Upload reports from contractors or approved natural supports into file upload.
  2. 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 reports from contractors and approved natural supports into File Upload.
  3. 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 facilities.
      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.

Forms

Child Specific Caregiver Notification DCYF 15-450

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

Sibling Visit Report DCYF 15-452

Unusual Incident Report DCYF 15-454

Visit Plan DCYF 15-209C

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)

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 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)