Supervision during Parental Visits with Children
Don't press the supervised visitation arrow. It's misleading.
This blog post will not be the full story. I am asking that some of you who have had experience with supervised visits, will write a comment to inform the rest of us.
One might think that it should be relatively uncomplicated for parents to visit their children who presently are being held in Ministry care. One might also assume that supervision is unnecessary.
MCFD will always maintain that supervised visits are necessary to insure the safety of the child.
This means that a supervisor is present for each visit between forcibly separated children and parents. A supervisor takes notes.
What becomes clear from the paper and reporting trail of countless case histories is that the supervised visit is an important and invaluable source of information for the Ministry. The information is a collage of observations, impressions and opinions written by the supervisor during the visit. These seldom work to the benefit of the parent(s).
Different types of supervision prescribed by MCFD are noteworthy.
1. A supervised visit might occur in a child-friendly room in the MCFD office suite. These can be two hour visits. They can be conducted without a supervisor in the visiting room. In some cases one way mirrored walls provide opportunity for supervision by social workers secreted behind the wall. This visitation space is free to the parent and means that the MCFD is not required to contract a third party to either transport the children or to monitor the visit in an independent location. In the office environment, if a supervisor is assigned to sit in during the visit, it may be a social worker but may also be an uncertified employee paid a per hour stipend. In the latter scenario, the employee has a modicum of training for this task including how to perform supervision and to write notes. The form used by the supervisor can be a standard fill-in form.
2. A part-time uncertified MCFD employee (not a social worker) is paid per hour to transport the children from the foster home to the parental home for an in-house visit. These may be 90 minute visits. The more acculturated the supervisor has become to MCFD practice the more predictably the supervisor’s notes suggest diminished affection between children and parents(s) and the more they infer or portray perceived problems. Further, the supervisor exercises control over parents by imposing restrictions upon the parents and children i.e. topics of communication, gestures and signs.
3. The visit takes place in a neutral or independent location supervised by an employee of a company or service provider contracted to transport children and to monitor the visit and take notes. Two local supervisory visitation providers Tin Harbour and NICCSS. Tin is an acronym for ‘Teens in Need’ and it was established in 1994. It’s website provides information about Tin. With few exceptions for court ordered visitations, Tin works for the Ministry of Children and Family Development almost exclusively. The work consists of supplying the transportation for children from the foster home to the visitation destination and return. Charges to the Ministry are for travel and reports. NCCSS is the other company doing supervision and its website identifies the details of its services.
Both of these service providers charge about $40/hour and double that on holidays but holidays I have learned are virtually impossible to obtain unless booked very well in advance.
Supervision procedure according to parents:
1. Parents never gain access to a supervisor’s written reports and are therefore unable to refute information that would be mistaken, imprecise, inaccurate or incorrect.
2. Parents are disadvantaged as well because they are not permitted to have guests in attendance lest they become witnesses in favour of the parents.
3. Parents are customarily not permitted to use video equipment during visitation and photos with digital cameras are permitted with supervision only.
4. Supervision is scheduled during regular working day hours, arranged at the convenience of the Ministry and the contracted service providers but seldom or never in consideration of the parents. Parents must miss work or surrender day jobs for evening work or miss their visits. Parents do not have input into the scheduling of visits.
5. Parents testify that the contracted supervision companies have given evidence that their reports tend to reflect the present position of MCFD with respect to the parents, so reports by the same supervisor who has reported parental inattentiveness or lack of affection by parents or children, may capriciously transform into positive affirmations when MCFD is moving to return the children.
I grant that my opinion of supervised visitation is shaped by injured parents but what they say is easily enough to disturb me. Some of the things that I hear should not be happening.