Thursday, April 8, 2010

SUPERVISED VISITATION / Part 161 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/


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.

6 comments:

  1. Our first supervised access visit. Held in a small room. Parents and Grandparents along with two children were shuffled into a room with a glass window. Our teenager broke down sobbing asking why? We were not allowed to tell her the allegations. We were told if she continued to cry her sister our 13 month old toodler would not be allowed to enter the room. Our daughter sucked back her tears, slapped on a rock hard look that I never want to see again in my life time. Somehow she was able to pretended everything was normal. Our little one joined us shortly thereafter. It was shocking. Our beautiful little girl was dressed like a homeless child. Her beautiful curls chopped off and she had an 80's style mullet. She was carried into the room almost listless. She was pale her eyes rimmed red. She squelled in delight when she saw us. It was several minutes before we noted her burning up with fever. We asked for a thermometer, explained that our family had history of seizure with fever. We were denied. Our daughter snuggled and we all just sucked up every minut of our time. After the first hour of our visit our little one was growing tired and wanted a drink. We reached into our bags and brought out an unopened bottle of juice with the receipt attached. All hell broke loose. The worker stormed in and said you cant give her that! Our daughter started pleeding and crying for a juice and we were not allowed to give it to her. She was feverish and this was just getting cruel. So we asked for a supervisor immediately. The worker said they were looking for a drink for her. We were denied. Our daughter was inconsolable. I stood with my back to the worker behind the glass holding my daughter in her view. 20 minutes later they brought a dirty sippy cup. When the visit ended the social worker gave us 5 minutes warning that the visit was ending say goodby. Our teenager looked at us like..your letting them do this? Absolutely powerless, we said goodby. Our little one did not accept leaving us very well. She clung to us, screaming. The social worker tried to take her from us. It wasnt working. We were advised if this continued, there would be no more visits. Our older daughter looked at her sister and said, hey baby girl can I have a hug? She got her hug and strode from the room with our little one in her arms. Tears dripping down her face.
    As a mom I had never been so proud, horrified or emotionally destroyed as I was that day. Later thru the courts those access visits notes were Lost..but a notation in the medical file noted our little girl had been seen by a Doctor at the CAS just prior to our visit, and it was noted that "the child has a fever due to cold, reccomend lots of fluids."

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  2. This comment stresses the importance of parent recording visits, so at least they can create their own notes from the recording when it comes time to dispute notes in court. Generally the volume of such notes is so great that it is not practical to address them in court. The purposes is for the social worker to read what is going on without having to be in the same room as the family. This way also they can insulate and depersonalize themselves from the situation

    Visit notes are supposed to record positives as well as negatives, and focus on the parenting efforts during these imposed visits. The notes should serve to clearly track progress as well. If, in my case, 10 months of supervised visits occurred in my home, and outside at parks, the notes were overwhelmingly positive and having them actually worked against the ministry to bring them to the attention in court, there is strong motive to discontinue supervision (this is in the case where continuing custody is not an MCFD objective.)

    Supervision make sense in the short term only for the purposes of providing courts with some insight into dangers that might exist -- this should be their only function. Three or four such supervised visits is enough. Ten months, three years - is beyond reason, and certainly cannot be financially justified since taxpayers are footing the bill.

    If the Ministry is incapable of providing services that quickly eliminate the need for supervision in the first month of separation, they are simply not doing their job.

    I can testify that the Ministry uses supervision as a weapon, not for "safety" reasons. Perhaps a convicted pedophile would qualify for continuous supervision, but the majority of such supervision imposed on parents is simply not justified.

    My first two vists after I didn't see my four children for three weeks, and this was nearly a week after Christmas had passed, these visits were deliberately not supervised while they occurred in the Ministry visit room.

    My kids were overjoyed to see me, which was the complete opposite of what the Ministry was trying to portray to the courts, that my children were scared to death of me. Ten months of visits went without a hitch and I missed no visits except to attend court.

    What might help parents is to quickly try to get a handle on the mindset of the social worker you are dealing with. Get into a conversation and ask their feed back on how, in their opinion the visit went, after reading the visit notes.

    This way you may get some kind of sense of what you are in for in the coming months. If restrictions start popping up immediately, they may be deliberately trying to get a rise out of you or your children. Upset children translate into poor parenting skills, not that the situation is unbearable to begin with.

    That said, I hope more people can submit there stories of their supervision experiences.

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  3. Anon, are you saying that you had access to the visitation notes and were able to read them?
    Ron

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  4. Access visitation notes..our legal team got copies of all access visitation notes. After a year of supervised access we were granted outside visitation supervised by relatives. The access notes were a glowing testiment to our skills as parents. Not one bad comment in a whole year of twice weekly visits. The record of the first five visits where we were under glass and supervision of our accusing worker never materialized. The Baynes are in trial at the end of Ministry submissions and the Baynes still do not have full and proper disclosure? I hope they have documented written requests. Judges really don't like finding out the Ministry/agents are hiding requested documents.

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  5. Supervised visits often create the following effects:

    1. Parents will likely end up losing their jobs as they have to take time off work to see their children regularly (usually 2-3 times a week). Few employers could entertain this on a long term basis. Once their incoming generating ability is destroyed, further intervention is justified as allegation that parents cannot look after their children becomes believable.

    2. It allows opportunities for service providers to write reports of their observations on parenting skills, how children interact with parents, ... etc. Few service providers, who are the true beneficiaries of the "child protection" industry, bite the hands that feed them.

    3. Parents are forced to interact with their children in a tense, unnatural environment that, in many cases, will produce a negative impact on their relationship.

    4. Visitation workers (MCFD's watchdogs during visitation), drivers (usually foster parents), outfits who provide the meeting facilities (such as West Coast Family Resource and those mentioned in today's blog) earn good income from such activities.

    5. Like drug dealers using street drugs to control people, SW often use visitation as a weapon to beat parents into submission as termination, frequency and length of visitation is at their sole discretion. If parents seek court intervention on access, it will take months before a hearing can be scheduled. Court order of increase access is not always followed as such disobedience carries no penalty.

    Speaking of CAS (MCFD's counterpart in Ontario), a Native Indian (the prime victim of state-sponsored child removal), spoke on the similarities of modern "child protection" and residential school at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dYKWhxDXoq8&

    His testimony gives a sharp contrast of a government propaganda film made in 1955 at:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_V4d7sXoqU&

    Likewise, government wants you to believe in the merits of supervised visits and all other "child protection" activities. Hear what children said in a supervised visit in Port Alberni:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roCu9paZUaM&

    After parents posts this video in youtube, their visitation was suspended and when resumed, parents were searched before and after seeing their children.

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  6. I know that this is a pretty old post but i stumbled across it while doing research on deciding if to contract out on my own as a mcfd supervisor and will add my own 2 bits in case others also stumble across it during their own difficulties.

    First, it's an awful situation to be put in and all too often the supervisor is 'in the middle' of things. We don't know the whole case, we are given crib notes (such as no other family members present) but we don't know why. It could be cuz of violence, suggested sexual assault, parental alienation/manipulation against the other etc. I've been in awful visit rooms and some better ones, and again agree that it should be better. Request home visits as much as possible, although it would require a home 'inspection' which is best just to think of as a time to clean up before the family comes to town. MCFD doesn't want to see that the dirty diapers from 6 months ago are still in the closet, hence the flies (disgusting but true). Do your best to show that you want your kids back. Is it that much trouble to do find the couch before the social worker comes? it's all perceptions...

    Like every profession, there are good supervisors and bad. We all hear about the bad ones, it sux. i know. My clients tell me the stories too, once i have earned their trust and/or respect. It requires a great deal of people skills and a willingness to see both sides of the nickel, so to speak. This rarely happens when the situation appears so one-sided.

    I can see your frustrations and especially if you feel you are being spied on unjustly. Too often people think that the supervisors are there to rat on them. I don't. I want your family back together and i look for the positives; if you don't know what i am looking for or what the ministry is looking for, ask me. i have no problem telling you. That said, others might. it's the luck of the draw i guess. Despite what you think, i am not well-paid as the hours are infrequent and scattered throughout the week. Most of us work part-time.

    Develop a good relationship w/ your social worker and continue to ask what you can do to get your family back together. If you feel that they are not providing you answers, ask for their team leader. It is your right to know.

    Tell them when you have a good supervisor, tell them when you have a bad one. Request the ones you feel comfortable with. I have had clients that feel more comfortable with me (i'm a male) than others (possibly cuz of violence).
    Your lawyer has access to any reporting we do for any agency. It's also your right.
    Make use of the resources and when you don't get a right answer, ask someone else. I've advocated for clients after being with them for months, seeing nothing being done about their lack of parenting skills, despite my reports. When i pressed the issue, the social worker had a 3 month backlog of my reports to read and then wanted more information on incidents that happened months ago.
    Again, this is not always the case but it happens; they had a invisible social worker that did nothing to help them get their kids back. I don't know why, as i never met her either.

    To all those still looking for information on supervised access; ask questions on what you can do for your children, be polite to the supervisor and ask their advice/help if you are unsure. In the end, i want you and your family back together, however little my contribution may be.

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