Depending on the situation, your foster child may have visits with their biological parents or family members. In some cases, they might have visits multiple times a week. In other cases, it might be an occasional phone call with a relative. While we can’t cover every situation, here are a few examples of visits you may encounter.
Supervised In-Person Visits
In many cases, the children will visit a bio parent under the supervision of a caseworker. The visits are typically an hour long and they might be held at a government office (such as the Department of Social Services) or they may be held in the community, at a park, or other common space.
In some cases, you may have the opportunity to meet the bio parents. In other cases, all contact may be handled through the caseworker. Again, every situation is unique.
Supervised Phone Calls
In some cases, it may be necessary for visits to be over the phone or over a video conference. These may or may not be supervised by a caseworker. In some situations, you may be asked to supervise the phone call and report any issues back to the caseworker.
Unsupervised Visits in the Community
If the bio parents are making progress and the case is headed towards reunification, the children may start having unsupervised visits in the community. This means the caseworker is not present and the parents are caring for the children unsupervised. These visits might also be longer than the supervised visits so make sure the bio family is aware of any scheduled events later that day (recreational sports, school events, therapy).
There also might be opportunities to have informal visits jointly with the bio family if your caseworker is comfortable with this. This could be the family attending sports or school events with you. Again, those situations need to be approved by the caseworker but can be a really great way to demonstrate to the children that everyone is on the same team and they don’t need to split their loyalty.
If unsupervised visits continue in a positive direction, the children may move to in-home visits. This would involve the children spending a few hours, or maybe a full day, with the bio parents in their home. Eventually, these could progress to overnight or weekend visits, if the case is headed towards reunification. There are typically many steps that need to happen before these visits are an option for the family.
Contact with Bio Parents
Each state and each agency may handle the process of visits differently. In our case, we’ve had direct contact with the bio parents to make it easier to coordinate phone calls and visits. (I recommend checking these three tools for contact with bio parents.) In other cases, our children didn’t have any visits because the parents were incarcerated.
In our area, we’re encouraged to have contact with the bio families if it’s safe and appropriate to do so. This type of relationship can help the child feel at ease and see everyone working as a team. When in doubt, check with your caseworker to determine the best path forward.