DCYF sent out this update for caregivers on what to expect:
During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Legislature passed HB 1194, which addresses visitation (Family Time). HB 1194 becomes effective on July 25, 2021, and requires the following:
- An initial (family time) visit must occur within 72 hours of the removal of a child unless the court finds that extraordinary circumstances require a delay. This visit must be supervised unless the department determines supervision is not necessary.
This requirement is in line with DCYF’s policy that an initial visit be held within 72 hours. However, HB 1194 has made this policy a law, meaning we are subject to contempt if we fail to meet these requirements. The new law’s timeframe does not exclude weekends or holidays.
HB 1194 will also require:
- Visitation becomes unsupervised at 30-day shelter care hearings, orders authorizing continued shelter care, review hearings, and permanency hearings unless DCYF provides a report to the court that includes evidence establishing that removing visit supervision or monitoring would create a risk to the child’s safety and the court determines that visit supervision must occur.
We want to stress that child safety is our number one priority. Our goal is for children and youth to reunify with their families when it is safe, and they have the resources and support they need to succeed. We know this law puts added pressure during a time when many changes are happening. We appreciate the patience and commitment for the children in your care, and we thank you for being partners throughout this process.
What will this new process look like?
- A DCYF caseworker or a Family Time visit provider will reach out to you as soon as possible to discuss options for setting up visitation for the child(ren).
- There may be situations where a Zoom call is the only option for the child(ren) to have visitation with their parent(s); however, most visits will be in person.
- We need your ongoing support and flexibility to work with the caseworker and/or visitation provider, so the child(ren) has visitation within that 72-hours of removal.
As you prepare for these changes, we wanted to provide you with resources. The Alliance currently offers the following trainings for caregivers about Family Time, and a new facilitated discussion group focused on partnership:
- Register here for “Caregiver’s Responsibility in Supporting Family Time”, a 90 minute webinar through the Alliance that covers what role caregivers can play in ensuring successful Family Time.
- Register here for “Understanding Family Time Supervision for Caregivers”, a 2.5 hour webinar through the Alliance that covers the expectations around Family Time supervision, including how to establish rapport with parent and child, guidelines around intervention in visits, and what to document and how. Many real-life scenarios will help you put the lessons into practice and be better prepared to implement the tools you learn.
- You can join the CaRES team for the launch of a new Supportive Facilitated Discussion Group called “Fostering as Part of a Team. This four part series covers how caregivers can partner with the other members of the child’s team including the courts, the social worker, CASA, GAL, medical team, therapists and the child’s biological family. During this supportive facilitated discussion, we will talk about how to support family time and partnership with the biological family, and understanding the role of DCYF staff and how to positively partner with them for placement success. You can register here.
We will continue to provide regular communication, including an FAQ document, so you can plan and be prepared for the changes.
If you have a question about visitation, please talk with your caseworker.
Note: The CaRES Program (the Alliance) sent out a similar email, and added:
The CaRES Program is here to support caregivers through changes. We’ve assembled a few resources to help and we’re always here to listen. Call or email us to connect! We don’t have all the answers but we expect DCYF will be releasing more information through an FAQ document soon.