One of our readers asked a great question that many foster parents wonder about, at least initially. I responded to her privately but thought I would address her question more fully and share the information with you. Her foster children are in the process of returning home, as is my current foster daughter. She would like to know what the guidelines are for the number of overnight and unsupervised visits prior to foster children returning home. Unfortunately, there are no guidelines for every foster caseworker to follow. There are logical patterns that they sometimes follow, and I’ll tell you about those. However, the court can order, whatever the court wants to order.
Here is a copy of the reader’s question.
Our foster children just recently started unsupervised visits and will start the over nights in the next few weeks. Does anyone know the guidelines as to how long these visits occur before the children are sent back? They currently visit twice a week for four hrs at the mothers apt and are not allowed to leave. The next permanency hearing is June 16th and I am wondering the odds of them going back that day. The mother is having her third child on the 10th just 6 days before court and the father is not to be around the two in custody. Thanks, Sarita
Usually, if foster children are able to return home after less than about three months in foster care, they won’t need overnight visits first. They can return to their parents on the date it is ordered. However, if the foster children have been in foster care for a long time, it may not be appropriate just to send them home on a moments notice. Of course, that also depends on the age of the children involved, a teenager might just return home immediately too, without overnight visits.
The typical pattern, for young children who have been in care for approximately a year or more, is to begin increasing weekly visitation. This is because for the past year, the children may have been spending just one hour a week with the parents. Visits could be increased to twice a week, and then an overnight, a weekend or two, and then return home. Sometimes, the parents have a service involved that helps them learn skills in budgeting, housekeeping, and parenting. If the court has ordered this service, then children would not return home until the service is available. This type of service organization sometimes has a waiting list.
While this is an ideal scenario to get the parents and children used to living together again, it doesn’t always happen that way for numerous reasons. Reasons might include, court order, foster parent request, child request, or a host of other possibilities.
When Foster Children Begin Extended Parental Visits
Photo Credit: 2005 Julia Fuller.