From the Executive Director's Desk

Key Factor #4 for Hannah's House Professional Supervised Visitation Services: Team Approach

When we began our research for program development in 1988, we found that one of the first common concerns expressed by the majority of parents, extended family members and professionals in the community related to the bias of professional monitors.

Users of the services experienced the providers as "taking sides." Sometimes it was a perception and sometimes it was an accurate report. We realized that there was no way in family disputes to ensure that both parties had a positive customer experience. We also realized that we had to develop a service delivery system that controlled for the perception or the reality of a professional provider "taking sides."

We decided to use a Team Approach to service delivery. This seemed like the best way to ensure that there were multiple perspectives and experiences of each family receiving services. It is human nature to become accustomed to a situation, to begin to generalize from our past experience in that situation, and then to lose accuracy and completeness in the experience.

We recognized that everyone has biases, prejudices, beliefs, and values that filter our daily experiences. It made sense to us that multiple professionals interacting with the same family would produce a much more accurate picture of parent-child relationships over time.

We also recognized that we all have had the experience of instantly liking or disliking someone. We knew this would happen for staff members and for clients. We decided early on that these responses would not dictate staffing assignments.

Staff members needs to be able to observe and document accurately regardless of personal reactions to someone. Skill development for a professional includes learning how to self-observe negative reactions to a person or behavior and then document without prejudice or editing.

Parents need to focus on just spending time with their children. Countless times over the past 27 years, parents have complained about the prejudice of a staff member. When we review the notes in these cases, 9 out of 10 times we find that the documentation provided a picture of a good parent and a positive parent-child relationship.

The parent was having a negative reaction to the Team Member and made the assumption that it meant the person didn't like the parent and that the Team Member would document with a negative tone. Imagine if we changed Team Members or assigned Team Members based on the requests of a parent. That would be bias or at the very least the appearance of bias.

Hannah's House has successfully used the Team Approach to forensic service delivery for over 27 years. We do assign one staff person to particular cases but only when there is a clearly documented medical reason for such an assignment.

We are the eyes and ears of the judge who will never meet the children, at least in most cases. We have a legal, moral, and ethical obligation to provide the clearest possible picture of the family. The Team Approach helps us meet all of these obligations in a forensically validated manner.