1. (a) Right to visitation.
(1) The parent is notified of the right to visit the child via, Form 04KI012E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP), or Form 04KI013E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Dispositional Report, as applicable.
(2) Denial of family visitation, sibling contact, or the exchange of emails, letters, and phone calls is not used to reward or punish the child or family.
(b) Parent-child visitation. Visitation is the single most predictive factor in whether a child is successfully reunified.
(1) Family visitation begins no later than one week after the child's removal.
(2) Frequent, purposeful visitation contributes to successful placement and reunification, reduces the time to reunification, and is a high priority of the child welfare (CW) specialist. Visitation serves to:
(A) reassure the child that the parent has not abandoned and still cares for him or her;
(B) reassure the parent that Child Welfare Services (CWS) is committed to maintaining family relationships and helping the parent;
(C) strengthen familial relationships;
(D) create an environment for the parent to demonstrate new parenting skills;
(E) create an opportunity where parenting skills may be evaluated;
(F) allow the CW specialist to:
(i) assess parent-child interaction;
(ii) assess the parent's level of interest and protective capacities;
(iii) prepare the family for reunification; and
(iv) identify continued risks to child safety that make reunification unfeasible.
(c) Visitation schedule.
(1) A visitation schedule is developed by the family, placement provider, and CW specialist within two weeks of the child's removal from the home. Visitation increases in length and frequency and decreases in the level of supervision as the parent demonstrates a change in the behaviors that caused the child to be unsafe.
(2) A visitation schedule provides a measure of certainty for parent-child interaction time and allows the parent a reliable routine for practicing new parenting and relationship techniques. The schedule promotes parent-child relationship and allows the CW specialist an opportunity to observe the parent-child interaction and to gage the parent's level of commitment to the child.
(3) The family, placement provider, and CW specialist determine the visitation frequency, location, and arrangements.
(4) A family team meeting (FTM) may be utilized to develop a visitation schedule, allowing the informal supports for the family, such as relatives, kin, friends, or neighbors, to assist the parent, when appropriate.
(5) When safety is ensured, the placement provider participates in visitation and supports, mentors, and helps the parent work toward reunification.
(6) The visitation schedule is written and signed by the family, placement provider, and CW specialist.
(7) The parent, placement provider, child, and others as appropriate, are provided a copy of the visitation schedule.
(8) The visitation schedule is attached to Form 04KI012E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP), or Form 04KI013E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Dispositional Report.
(d) Visitation frequency. The CW specialist attempts to facilitate the most frequent visitation schedule possible.
(1) When the court orders the frequency of visitation, the schedule includes the number of court-ordered visits.
(2) Contact with the child occurs according to the child's safety needs.
(3) Visitation frequency is increased by adding a schedule for letters and phone calls, followed by an increase in visits. Phone calls and visits are arranged by the parent, placement provider, and age-appropriate child.
(e) Length of visitation. Initial visits may be of short duration, such as one to two hours. Length of visits gradually increase as agreed to by the parent, placement provider, and CW specialist based on the planned activities and the best interests of the child and family.
(1) Increased frequency and duration of visitation is encouraged.
(2) Successful unsupervised all day, overnight, and weekend visits are completed prior to planning for the child's return home.
(f) Location. In the beginning stages of a case, visits may require supervision by the CW specialist, and when necessary, held in a controlled environment such as the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) office or the home of an approved relative or kin. When a home-like setting is not available or appropriate, visits may be held in locations such as parks, restaurants, and shopping malls.
(1) As the parent progresses in developing protective capacities and in eliminating safety threats, the frequency and length of visits increase and the location moves to the parent, placement provider, or an approved relative or kin's home, as appropriate as well as parks, restaurants, and shopping malls.
(2) The length, frequency, and location of visits are based on the child's needs and the parent's abilities.
(g) Visitation activities. Visits include planned, structured, and age-appropriate activities with the child that strengthen the parent-child relationship and allow the parent an opportunity to learn about the child's development. As parental involvement progresses, school conferences, and doctor appointments may be combined with the family visits.
(h) Importance of visitation. The CW specialist stresses to the parent the importance of regular visits with the child. The parent is informed that a child in out-of-home placement anticipates and is positively or negatively affected by family visits. The CW specialist explains:
(1) when a parent fails to attend a scheduled visit, it is harmful to the child;
(2) the parent's attendance, behaviors, and interactions with the child at scheduled visits is documented on Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report, to report the parent's progress toward improved parenting; and
(3) frequent parent-child visitation increases the likelihood of early reunification.
(i) Visitation suspension or termination. Prior to discontinuing or recommending discontinuation of visitation between the parent and child, the CW specialist consults with the district attorney, child's attorney, and child's therapist, when applicable.
(1) When visitation is implemented by the CW specialist and is not court-ordered, the CW specialist provides written notice of the decision to suspend or terminate visitation with a detailed explanation, including efforts made by OKDHS to improve the quality of family contacts, to the:
(B) child's attorney;
(D) court-appointed special advocate (CASA), when applicable; and
(E) tribe, when applicable.
(2) When visitation is court-ordered, visits between the child and parent are not suspended or terminated by OKDHS. The recommendation to suspend or terminate visitation between the child and parent, includes a detailed explanation, including efforts made by OKDHS, to improve the quality of family contacts, is provided to the:
(B) child's attorney;
(D) CASA, when applicable; and
(E) tribe, when applicable.
(j) Protocol for visitation facilitation for multiple district assignments.
(1) No later than 10 business days after secondary assignment, the CW specialist in the county of jurisdiction begins an email exchange between all assigned CW specialists and supervisors to develop a visitation schedule, and make child-focused case decisions regarding specific specialist responsibilities.
(A) Decisions regarding the visitation schedule include consideration of:
(i) who is involved in the visitation;
(ii) when and where visitation is held;
(iii) who provides transportation;
(iv) who is responsible for documentation of visitation in KIDS; and
(v) visitation cancellation and suspension issues.
(B) Issues that may impact decision-making are:
(i) court orders regarding visitation, such as frequency and supervision;
(ii) the child and parent's needs;
(iii) suggested activities;
(iv) input from family and kin during family team meetings; and
(v) any other pertinent information.
(2) The CW specialist in the county of jurisdiction and the CW specialist in the county of the child's placement review the decisions regarding visitation and address issues during the mandatory monthly phone contact.
(3) When there is disagreement regarding visitation decisions, the CW specialist not in agreement consults with his or her supervisor and schedules a teleconference or face-to-face staffing with all assigned CW staff to determine necessary action.
(k) Visitation documentation. The occurrences and interactions during family visitation provide essential information utilized in case decisions.
(1) Visits are documented:
(A) in the KIDS Contacts and Visits screens;
(B) in the Visitation Section of Form 04KI013E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Dispositional Report; or
(C) on Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report, to provide information to the court regarding visitation.
(2) Documentation includes, but is not limited to:
(A) the parent's progress in demonstrating parenting skills during visitation;
(B) the development of the parent-child relationship;
(C) efforts to place siblings, who have been removed, together and efforts to provide ongoing visitation or other contact between siblings, when siblings are not placed in the same home; and
(D) other significant events.
(l) Parent's failure to attend visitation. When the parent does not attend a scheduled visit, the CW specialist discusses the absence with the parent to determine the cause.
(1) When the parent was unable to attend due to circumstances beyond his or her immediate control, another visit is scheduled as soon as it can be arranged and services, such as transportation, are provided to alleviate the cause of the missed visit and promote future visits.
(2) When frequent absenteeism occurs after services are offered:
(A) the reasons for the parent's absence are evaluated with the parent's participation;
(B) the parent is informed that failure to keep scheduled visits is harmful to the child's emotional and mental well-being and to the parent-child relationship; and
(C) when feasible, the CW specialist attempts to minimize harm to the child due to the parent's failure to attend. One method requires the parent to arrive at the visitation location prior to the child.
(3) When the parent chronically misses visits after services are offered and is aware of resulting harm to the child, this indicates the parent may be unwilling or unable to assume parenting responsibilities.
(4) Visit absenteeism may be accompanied by arriving late, leaving early, or poor parent-child interaction. This information is considered by the CW specialist during permanency planning for the child.
(m) Anxiety demonstrated during visitation. Visits with parents are often stressful to the child.
(1) The child may:
(A) be upset by the parent's behaviors;
(B) have a loyalty conflict between the parent and placement provider; or
(C) feel anger, fear, or uncertainty about the separation and the future.
(2) Placement providers often attribute a child's difficult behaviors before and after visits to negative feelings the child may have toward the parent or to negative events that might have occurred during the visit.
(3) Pre- and post-visit behaviors are documented in KIDS Visits screen and, when appropriate, Form 04KI009E, Court Report, or 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report.
(4) When a child demonstrates anxiety surrounding family visits the actions in subparagraphs (A) and (B) are considered.
(A) The CW specialist holds a discussion with the parent, placement provider, child, and appropriate professionals, such as a counselor or therapist, to determine whether changes will make the visits more satisfactory. With the parent's participation, the CW specialist designs a plan of action to correct the situation and assists the parent with making necessary changes.
(B) When the behavior persists after the CW specialist has talked to the child, counseling is provided to determine the cause for the reaction. The CW specialist maintains awareness of the child's feelings, fears, and desires by conducting visits with the child and observing family visitation a minimum of once every four weeks.
(i) When abuse or neglect occurs during visitations, a report is made to the OKDHS Abuse and Neglect Hotline and a new investigation is conducted, per OAC 340:75-3.
(ii) The child's significant events and reactions are documented in the appropriate KIDS screens and on Form 04KI009E, Court Report, or Form 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report.
2. Sibling visitation.
(1) When sibling groups, who have been removed, are not placed together in temporary or permanent placements:
(A) on-going face-to-face contact is arranged a minimum of once every four weeks until the siblings are reunited in out-of-home placement or the permanency plan is achieved; and
(B) in addition to face-to-face contact, phone, social media, letter, or email contact between the siblings is arranged as frequently as possible until the siblings are reunited in out-of-home placement or the permanency plan is achieved.
(2) Sibling contacts approved by the CW specialist may be arranged by placement providers.
(3) The CW specialist verifies the face-to-face and other types of contacts with the placement provider at each monthly contact.
(4) When sibling contact is detrimental to one or more of the siblings, a temporary exception to visitation is documented in the case record. The CW specialist:
(A) arranges services, including counseling, when indicated, to correct the situation; and
(B) reports the status of sibling contact in the Visitation section of Form 04KI009E, Court Report, or 04KI014E, Individualized Service Plan (ISP) Progress Report.
(5) When sibling contact is not feasible due to behavioral health needs, such as a sibling receiving inpatient care, the CW specialist:
(A) maintains contact with the unavailable sibling's service provider to resume face-to-face siblings visitation or other forms of sibling contact as soon as it is in the best interests of the siblings; and
(B) reports the status of sibling contact in the Visitation Section of Form 04KI009E, or Form 04KI014E.
3. Visitation after reasonable efforts not required finding. After a judicial finding that reasonable efforts to reunite are not required or have been made and failed, visitation between the child and parent is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether to continue visitation.
(A) The reasonable efforts not required finding alone does not cease or limit visitation.
(B) At the court hearing when the finding is made, the CW specialist:
(i) makes a recommendation regarding termination of parental rights; and
(ii) recommends whether visitation continues, is limited, or ceases.
4. Visitation with a parent whose rights are terminated. In some cases, contact and visitation between an older child or teenager and a parent whose rights are terminated may be appropriate. Teens and older children in other permanent placements, excluding adoptive homes, may desire a relationship with a parent who has made changes and matured since parental rights were terminated.
5. Opening and reading the child's mail. Mail for a child in OKDHS custody is not opened or inspected except by the child. When the CW specialist believes the mail contains:
(1) contraband, the specialist opens the mail in the child's presence without reading; or
(2) inappropriate or harmful information, the specialist immediately notifies the CW supervisor. Court approval is required to open or read the child's mail.
(A) The CW supervisor consults with the district director regarding any concerns for the child and procedures to open or inspect the mail.
(B) When necessary, the CW supervisor contacts the district attorney for assistance in obtaining a court order providing appropriate restrictions.
6. (a) Visitation with relatives, extended family, and significant others. When contact and visitation with relatives and extended family is important for the child's well-being, the CW specialist:
(1) encourages, when appropriate, the child's relatives and kin to maintain or strengthen relationships with the child through visitation and other forms of contact, and facilitates the contact, visitation; and
(2) considers the parent's viewpoint, wishes of the child, and permanency plan when school teachers, church personnel, or other members of the community who know the child request ongoing visitation or contact with the child.
(b) Child's visits or contacts from outside entities. The CW specialist determines who is appropriate to have visitation or contact with the child in out-of-home placement. When the child is in emergency or temporary OKDHS custody, the parent and relatives have input into the decision. For the child in permanent OKDHS custody, the CW specialist may approve contact from outside entities, based upon the child's wishes and the permanency plan.
(c) When the parent disagrees with the child's contact or visitation with relatives or others, the child's attorney is consulted.