From the Executive Director's Desk

Key Factor #5 for Hannah's House Professional Supervised Visitation Services: Forensic Record Keeping and Reports

Forensic science is any scientific field that is applied to the field of law. In the case of supervised visitation at Hannah's House, the areas of science are social science and behavioral science. Forensic scientists are tasked with the collection, preservation, and analysis of scientific evidence during the course of an investigation and all of that evidence is.related to, used in, or suitable to a court of law.

The provision of supervised visitation services requires 100% eye shot and earshot observation and documentation. The 2015 California Rules of Court sets forth Standard 5.20.

Uniform standards of practice for providers of supervised visitation

(a) Scope of service

This standard defines the standards of practice, including duties and obligations, for providers of supervised visitation under Family Code sections 3200 and 3200.5. Unless specified otherwise, the standards of practice are designed to apply to all providers of supervised visitation, whether the provider is a friend, relative, paid independent contractor, employee, intern, or volunteer operating independently or through a supervised visitation center or agency.

The goal of these standards of practice is to assure the safety and welfare of the child, adults, and providers of supervised visitation. Once safety is assured, the best interest of the child is the paramount consideration at all stages and particularly in deciding the manner in which supervision is provided. Each court is encouraged to adopt local court rules necessary to implement these standards of practice.

Nonprofessional providers are held to the same standard as professional providers in most areas of the standard. They are not required to document, maintain records or produce reports. Only professional providers are held to the record keeping and reports portion of the standard.

5.20 requirements are detailed clearly:

(1) Professional providers must keep a record for each case, including the following:

(A) A written record of each contact and visit;

(B) Who attended the visit;

(C) Any failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the visitation; and

(D) Any incidence of abuse as required by law.

(2) Case recordings should be limited to facts, observations, and direct statements made by the parties, not personal conclusions, suggestions, or opinions of the provider. All contacts by the provider in person, in writing, or by telephone with either party, the children, the court, attorneys, mental health professionals, and referring agencies should be documented in the case file. All entries should be dated and signed by the person recording the entry.

(3) If ordered by the court or requested by either party or the attorney for either party or the attorney for the child, a report about the supervised visit must be produced. These reports should include facts, observations, and direct statements and not opinions or recommendations regarding future visitation. The original report must be sent to the court if so ordered, or to the requesting party or attorney, and copies should be sent to all parties, their attorneys, and the attorney for the child.

(4) Any identifying information about the parties and the child, including addresses, telephone numbers, places of employment, and schools, is confidential, should not be disclosed, and should be deleted from documents before releasing them to any court, attorney, attorney for the child, party, mediator, evaluator, mental health professional, social worker, or referring agency, except as required in reporting suspected child abuse.

Hannah's House has a database of clients which includes the initial phone screening, intake information, and a phone log where all phone conversations are logged. Since the advent of email and the internet, electronic documentation has become the more common method of communication and all emails communication is maintained on all clients.

Supervisors complete Activity Reports during each visit and each exchange. Documentation on the Activity Report is completed at the time of service delivery and then reviewed in a weekly Quality Assurance meeting for completeness and accuracy.

When a court report is ordered or requested by any legal party to a case, the individual activity reports are compiled into one report document and distributed to all legal parties to the case. All phone logs, emails and in-person communication is also included in the court report.

Hannah's House provides supervised exchange services that are guided by the 5.20 Standard. However, it's important for consumers to know that, as of January 1, 2015, any reference to supervised exchange in the Rule were eliminated. This means that there is no standard for supervised exchanges.