Entering foster care is a traumatic and scary experience for children. Being able to see and talk with their parents within the first few days can ease some of the anxiety and worry children have while separated from their parents.
Family visits, while children are in a foster home, are critical to maintaining and strengthening the relationship between parents and kids, and can help parents feel hopeful that they can do the work to reunite with their children. And returning home is the best long-term outcome for kids. This is why we are thrilled that the Washington State legislature passed the “Strengthening parent-child visitation during child welfare proceedings” bill (HB 1194) that officially went into effect on July 25, 2021.
This new law requires an initial, supervised family visit within the first 72 hours of a child entering foster care. This bill also promotes unsupervised visitation at key stages in the process for parents to reunite with their children, unless the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) has reasonable evidence that lack of supervision would be a risk to the child’s safety. These changes to family visits are a huge win for kids and families, allowing greater connection, reducing trauma for children, and promoting family reunification.
Terreca DeFehr, facilitator of the Washington State Parent Ally Committee (hosted by Amara), testified before the Washington State Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee, sharing how family time visitation restrictions impacted her family. A transcript of her testimony is available below and can be viewed online at 1:24.45.
Good afternoon Madam Chair and Committee.
My name is Terreca DeFehr. I am a birth parent who has lived experience navigating the child welfare system. I am here today in support of House Bill 1194.
Due to domestic violence and addiction issues, my children were placed in foster and kinship care. Within five months I had completed drug treatment, actively involved in my recovery and services by the department. However, my supervised visits were not decreased, and even though I was making positive progress, this lasted up until a few months before my reunification.
Prolonged supervision had a hindering impact on the parent-child bond. As a parent, the visits kept me living in my shame and inadequacies as a parent and distracted with the over-compensating to do the ‘right thing’ in front of the eyes of the supervisor. Additionally, the struggle I’d seen in my children was confusion. We came from a fear and trauma-based environment prior to this, and I could tell at times my children seeked approval and not wanting to get in trouble, during our supervised visits, who to turn to when needing consoling, asking permission to do something, which kept us from working on bonding, building trust, and healing in a natural parent-child dynamic. Ultimately, the visits became more about perfection and less about connection, for me and my children. Thank you for your time.
Read more about the importance of family time visitation.