DETROIT, MI – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Services Agency recently published Communication Issuance for guidance regarding supervised visitation in foster care cases.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the "new normal" for our day-to-day lives, many families face significant changes in parenting time. This includes “virtual” agency-supervised parenting time in the friend of the court cases.
Amy Lindholm, a Friend of the Court Bureau Management Analyst, shared several important guidance regarding the matter.
"First, it’s important to keep in mind that child development experts agree that in-person parent-child contact is the best method of developing a nurturing, positive relationship," said Lindholm.
Safe, and provided for by court order, in-person supervised sessions should continue whenever possible. Alternatively, to maintain court-ordered parent-child contact, agencies can also implement electronic communication, such as phone calls or any video conferencing technology, to facilitate supervised parenting time.
Agency staff should also consider access to technology and reliable internet service for all involved parties when considering virtual parenting time sessions. Supervisors should also consider their lack of control over participants’ environments.
In addition to being savvy in controlling the virtual area, supervisors should also adopt several new ground rules, such as who will or will not be present during sessions. As standard parenting time sessions may be too long for younger children to handle online, the child should be able to indicate their intention to end the call.
Staff should also learn and enforce several security measures when it comes to video conferencing. For example, when using Zoom, make sure that supervising staff clicks "End Meeting For All" to ensure no unsupervised conversation after the session ends.
The Office of Dispute Resolution has also developed a comprehensive guide on Using Zoom to Conduct Online Mediation which may be helpful.
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