Family Reunification with your child(ren) most likely is an emotional time. Reuniting with your child(ren) may take some time (usually 4-6 months or longer depending on the case), and will involve steps to be fully reunited. The courts and child protective services (and other agencies) may be involved in your case, and the ultimate goal is to reunite you and your child(ren). At the time you reach reunificaiton, you have hopefully been through all the mandated recommendations from the court and/or other agencies and ready to have visitiation with your child(ren). My role is to make sure the child(ren) are safe and ready to have visitation with the parent(s).
The steps taken for family reunificaiton used through my services follow the recommendations through Snohomish Courts, King County Courts, and Child Welfare.
Receive and read all the material involved in the case. I want to make sure the parent(s) have followed through with the requirements ordered through the courts and/or Child Protective Services(CPS) and review issues the parent(s) have been through. After reviewing the material, I will contact the attorney's involved, CPS worker, or any other professionals involved directly in the case. Before I make contact with the parent(s), I want to make sure of any safety concerns that may be present, and any concerns the custodial parent or foster parent so I can develop a step by step process with the family.
Contact the custodial parent or foster parents, and discuss their concerns and how the process works. I will send paperwork to both set of parents (custodial and non-custodial).
Meet the child(ren) in my office. This is an informal unstructured interview where I can meet the child(ren) and gain a better understanding of the family system. This is scheduled after the paperwork from the parents has returned to my office.
Contact the non-custodial parent(s) that is seeking reunfication with their child(ren). I will meet with them separately and go over the process and address any concerns. This is when I will make sure the non-custodial parent(s) has followed through with recommendations from the courts, CPS, or other agencies. This will be discussed in detail, and I will get releases of information to contact all professionals involved. After collateral parties have been contacted, the parent(s) seeking reunification will be contaced again for the following: 1. a supervised visit will be scheduled with the parent(s) and child(ren). This process may take a while (60-90 days when the process begins) because many factors need to be considered especially where the child(ren) is emotionally distraught over the estranged parent(s). Additionally, I may spend more time with the estranged parent (s)because of parenting issues, blame, anger, etc. and work through these issues prior to integrating the family unit.
After the estranged parent(s) has a good understanding of the process, parenting, and is or has worked on their prior issues, integration of the family will begin. Supervised phone calls to the child(ren) is the first step (depending on the age). After a few phone visits, a structured, supervised visit will occur with the estranged parent(s) and child(ren). The custodial parent or foster parent(s) is involved during this process as well because of scheduling and travel time. There will be many supervised visits in a neutral location with the estranged parent(s) until the family reconciliator (FR) feels it is time for the family to move to the next stage. The FR will (most of the time) visit the estranged parent(s) home to watch the interaction within the family system. Once the FR feels the family may begin unsupervised visits, the FR will communicate this with the custodial parent(s), CPS, Foster Care, and the estranged parent(s). A report will be generated outlining rules for visitations, and given to the apporpriate parties involved.
The FR will do follow-up after-care visits after the first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. The FR will be in touch with the family to discuss any parenting issues that may come up, any concerns, and questions.