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March 2020Vol. 21, No. 2Visitation Guidelines

A child who is removed from his or her family can experience attachment issues stemming from the separation. Advokids has a webpage that provides a summary of visitation guidelines meant to help ease the trauma and stress of separation and preserve attachments that are crucial for a child's emotional and cognitive development. The resource discusses the importance of visitation and provides guidelines for judges and attorneys and for social workers and other practitioners.

Visitation planning is an ongoing process that should correspond with the child's placement phase in the child welfare system. There are three phases to visitation planning:

  • Initial phase—This phase focuses on maintaining ties between the parent and child, assessing the parent's capacity to care for their child, and goal planning. This phase generally lasts from 4 to 8 weeks, but this can vary from family to family.
  • Intermediate phase—During this phase, the parent is working to meet their case goals, and visitation activities allow the parent to learn and practice new skills and behaviors. Visits during this phase typically occur more frequently and for longer periods. They are also conducted in a greater variety of settings and with gradually reduced supervision.
  • Transition phase—This phase focuses on smoothing the transition from out-of-home placement to home and determining what services are required to support the child's needs and the parent's ability to meet those needs following reunification.

Guidelines for visitation with infants and toddlers center on the importance of developing attachments to their parents and strengthening the parent-child relationship. Judges and attorneys should work to ensure face-to-face contact between children and their parents no more than 5 days after placement; establish weekly visits with parents and monthly visits with siblings; arrange other methods of contact, including phone calls, letters, emails, and text messages; and create a court order or visitation document that can be given to everyone involved in the visitation that specifies times, duration, location, and level of supervision. Social workers and other practitioners should have a written visitation plan, make visits a normal part of life, and have the visits occur at a consistent date, time, and place, whenever possible. The webpage also provides guidelines for social workers and practitioners based on the child's time in care and their permanency goals.

The resource also provides applicable statutes, rules, and case law.

It is available at