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December/January 2019Vol. 19, No. 10Ensuring Quality Family Visits During Foster Care to Promote Earlier, Safer Reunifications

When children are in out-of-home care, quality visits with their birth families can improve the odds for earlier, safer, and more successful family reunifications. An article from the American Bar Association (ABA) Center on Children and the Law highlights practices that can help improve the family visit experience for children and families and promote reunification.

The goal of the article is to promote strengthening legal representation for parents in the child welfare system. The article uses the term "family time" in place of the more frequently used term "visitation" to convey the normalcy of the time a child spends with parents, siblings, and extended family. The article makes the following key points:

  • Family time should be the focus of a family's case plan.
  • The first visit should ideally happen within 48 hours of a child's removal—a judge should order this if necessary.
  • Visits should be convenient and comfortable for everyone.
  • Visits should ideally take place outside the child welfare office.
  • Caseworkers should prepare parents logistically and emotionally for what to expect during a visit.
  • Family time should supervised as minimally as possible, with child safety the primary consideration.
  • Family time should happen as often as possible in circumstances that mimic family life (e.g., the family's church, a favorite park, a relative's home).
  • Parents should be encouraged to participate in their children's normal activities (e.g., attend a child's school concert, sports game) and made aware of a child's doctor appointments and other activities.

The article also provides resources and examples of how some jurisdictions promote the quality and frequency of family time.

Family Time/Visitation: Road to Safe Reunification is available at