DSHS Changed Visitation Policy

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) recently modified its visitation policy in a major way. There is now a presumption that visits between parents and children be unsupervised and in the least restrictive setting unless the presence of threats and danger to the child requires the constant presence of an adult to ensure the safety of the child. Thus a concrete risk must be identified rather than assuming visits be supervised. Early and consistent visitation is the most important component of reunification when children are removed from the home. Supervised visitation in practice often results in no visitation because of the Department’s lack of an identified provider. Promoting more frequent and liberalized visitation for families is beneficial in a multitude of ways. Consistent and early visitation is key for children to heal from the trauma of separation. It minimizes the self-blame that children in dependency cases often feel. Early visitation reduces the time children spend in out-of-home care, paving a quicker road to permanency and saving state resources. It motivates parents to engage more fully in their cases from the beginning. It makes transitions home go much more smoothly for all. While these are only a handful of benefits of promoting visitation, it is clear the Department’s new policy will benefit families. DSHS is moving in the right direction with this change.

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