Navigating the foster care process is challenging. There are so many moving parts and players who are all working toward a main goal – reunification of the family. When we add in a global pandemic with social distancing guidelines, the situation quickly becomes ripe for chaos.
If you are a foster care provider, have a child or relative involved in the foster care system, or are a kinship caregiver for a dependent child, you likely have questions about how regular parent-child contact can be conducted while best minimizing the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Currently the Department of Child Safety (DCS) has enacted strict protocols for visitation and contact between dependent children and their parents and/or separated siblings during the COVID-19 restriction period. To date, this is expected to last until at least April 30, 2020. In order to preserve the health and safety of all of those involved, all in-person visitation has been moved to virtual visitation for the time being. All DCS Specialist contacts with children in care have also been moved to a virtual platform, utilizing apps such as Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime.
While it is fortunate that technology allows for continued contact between parent and child during the pandemic crisis, the shift presents its own challenges. Although the audio and visual benefits are clear, virtual visitation is devoid of key sensory information, including physical touch and smell. Virtual “hugs” are not the same, and a newborn can’t bond in the same way with a voice on a screen. Attention spans of younger children are limited, and parents and caregivers alike may experience frustration with keeping the contact meaningful.
Virtual visitation also places a different kind of challenge on foster placements and kinship caregivers – by requiring this type of contact, placements must essentially invite a child’s parents into their home on a video feed. It also requires the parents to have reasonable access to a device to do this type of visitation, as well as the manpower to supervise the video visitation if required by the case plan or court order.
For more information on the COVID-19 protocols in effect for Department of Child Safety matters, including visitation, and other available resources, please visit the COVID-19 page on the Arizona DCS website.
You may also need to contact your assigned caseworker or licensing agency to address more specific questions relevant to your circumstances.
This post is intended to highlight just certain portions of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure. It is not intended to substitute for professional legal advice on your specific case. McCarthy Family Law is a family law firm; however please check with your personal family law attorney for advice specific to your case. Or you can contact our office to speak to one of our family law attorneys to discuss how these rules may impact your specific case.