As a foster parent, I want to be adequately notified of changes to the visitation plan, so that I can plan my family's schedule accordingly.
When children are placed in out-of-home care, it is very important that they maintain contact and connection with their biological parents, as long as it is safe. The number of weekly hours of visitation is determined by the court, and then the child’s social worker coordinates the scheduling of those visits. Depending on the case, these visits likely have supervision required, which means that a third party must remain present throughout the visit duration. A third-party is also often used to transport the child(ren) to the visit location.
As you can imagine, the logistics of scheduling are incredibly difficult, often involving at least three parties - more when you consider that siblings might be placed in a different foster home. For the overworked social worker, who is completing this task for dozens of cases, it becomes impossible to check every box.
The impact that visitation has on foster families is significant and is commonly cited as one of the reasons that foster families cannot continue fostering. Visitation is court-ordered, which means that it overrules school, sports, family events, tutoring or any of the other activities that are important to a family.
Therefore, being notified of changes is hugely important, and frequently does not occur in a timely fashion.
So what do we do?
We ran an experiment on visitation scheduling to see if we could learn more about this problem.