All About: Family Visitation in Foster Care

Jun 27, 2024 - In the News, Foster Care and Adoption


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Foster parents welcome abused and neglected children when it is not safe for them to remain at home. They provide a nurturing family environment and give kids as much of a normal childhood experience as possible. The children’s birth family works with the court and child welfare system so the kids can safely return. This is called reunification, and it is the first goal in almost every case.

Children in foster care have regular, supervised visits with their birth parents. Studies show these visits are key to successful reunification and the children’s well-being while in foster care. Visits are usually scheduled for one hour (two hours each week for children under 18 months) and supervised by the conservatorship/permanency caseworker at their office. Siblings who aren’t placed together will also have weekly visits. The timeframes may adjust to be longer and more frequent as cases progress successfully. Visits are vital because they help children and parents maintain and strengthen their bond and remain connected when they are separated. They also allow the children’s worker to assess the parents’ growth, stability and engagement. These are critical for ensuring families are ready for kids to return home safely.

Visitation also creates a safe, neutral environment where foster families and birth families can meet and connect. Birth parents want to know how their children are doing and what is happening in their lives. Foster parents want to know more about the children, their educational and medical history, family culture, likes and dislikes. Children benefit from seeing the adults in their lives connect in healthy ways and work toward their best interests; they get a chance to see firsthand that many people love them, and they don’t feel forced to choose sides.

It is natural for families considering fostering to have questions about supervised visitation, so we asked some PCHAS foster parents to share their experiences and offer advice. Read on to see what they had to say.

Share about your experience with visitation, initial expectations, and how that has compared with reality.

  • We’ve fostered since 2021 and have had a lot of experience with supervised visitation. Supervised visitation allows families to see their children while being supervised to ensure safety and appropriateness of the visit.
  • Initially, it seemed a bit scary dropping a foster child off and trusting a stranger to supervise and keep the child safe, but we’ve had wonderful visitation monitors who helped bridge gaps, helped families and been positive resources in helping families interact with their kids safely. It’s a toss-up, but it's mainly positive in helping families appropriately reconnect.

How do you prepare children for visits?

  • We always foreshadow [the visit] the night before and the morning of to let the child know what the day will be like, when/where the visit will be, and who will pick up and drop off.
  • We usually do something fun after the visit to give the child something to do to help kickstart them back into routine to help them not be swallowed up by feelings about the visit.
  • We always remind the child to be kind at visits.
  • We remind the child of the fun/important things they can tell their families about at the visit to promote conversation.
  • [For babies and toddlers,] we packed a floor mat, boppy pillow, small toys, and a full diaper bag for each visit since visitation rooms usually do not have infant items. We would pack bottles and several changes of clothes for the child (cute outfits for pictures). I also made sure the child wore different outfits each visit for pictures.
  • Sometimes there is a history of the birth family not being able to make the visit. It can be very hard for the kids. When that happens, you just have to find out what works for that specific child.

What is a Visitation Room Like?

Some are spacious and well-equipped to encourage families to connect, play and enjoy their time together. Others are seriously lacking. Entrusted Houston is a friend of PCHAS. They saw a need, raised money and resources, and rolled up their sleeves to refresh some visitation rooms in the Houston area. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, the agency that oversees Child Protective Services (CPS), shared these pictures on Facebook.

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What has your interaction been with the birth family members before and after visits?

  • We make it a priority to pick up and drop off so we can meet and create rapport with birth families. We update them on the child, and what has been going on, and we tell them how excited the children are for the visit. We bring up talking points for the family to offer ideas for them to talk about with the children. After the visit, we discuss any issues or concerns that may have come up. We get pictures of the children with parents to put in their room. We also talk generally (avoid inside jokes or long stories that need lots of details), so the family doesn’t feel out of the loop about their child.
  • I meet any safe birth parents who want to meet me. If there are visits before we are able to meet, I include a note of how the child is doing, a feeding schedule for babies and toddlers, encouragement, and support in the diaper bag. I also include pictures. I send pictures for family to each visit. I was able to build a very positive relationship with one family. The families have always been appreciative of the level of care and love we showed their child.

What advice would you give to new foster families regarding family visits and relationships with birth family members?

  • Be supportive and open with the parents and family. Give them photos and updates at visits. Tell them you are there to care for their child until they can return home, and you are on their side. But, don't expect them to always be grateful and kind back to you. They are going through an extremely hard time and just had their children taken from them, so just show them grace and continue on. This is going to be an emotional rollercoaster for you as a foster parent, so show yourself grace also. Support the children in your home as much as you can for as long as you are able with love and kindness. They will need extra love and support after visits.
  • One of the most important things you can do is love on these families as a whole. Some of these parents didn’t grow up learning these skills. Forging positive relationships opens the door for a lifelong relationship and becoming an extension of the family. These visits and interactions forge valuable relationships for the children and for the parents’ long-term success/support system when children go home! It may seem intimidating at first, but you can’t love a child with your whole heart and have hate/indifference to the people who created that child and who that child loves.

Visitation is an important topic, and it is important for all of us to continually learn, stretch and grow so kids get the absolute best. Please take a moment to read Bridging The Gap: How To Improve Birth Family Visits, shared by our friends at Chosen.

PCHAS offers weekly Online Info Sessions. This is a great place to start if you want to learn more about visitation or foster care and adoption in Texas. Sign up to learn how it all works, or connect with a Foster Care & Adoption Guide at 281-324-0544 or

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