Consumer Questions About Professional Providers of Supervised Visitation in California

Hannah's House regularly receives phone calls from parents who have questions about the rules, guidelines, laws and expectations of professional providers of supervised visitation. Visiting parents and residential parents have questions about the professional provider they have chosen. Why do we get the questions? We have been training professionals in San Diego County since 1988 - our own agency staff and individuals planning to open a private visitation business.

Here are some of the common questions we receive from consumers - 
1  How close should the supervisor be on outside visits, like a park?
2 Do supervisors have to have special insurance to transport a child in their personal vehicle?
3 Is the supervisor responsible to stop inappropriate video games, or movies, or other screen content?
4 What kind of cellphone use is appropriate for a Supervisor during a supervised visitation?
5 Are supervisors allowed to make recommendations to custody evaluators or to judges?
6 What should I do if: (a) my Supervisor falls asleep during visits; (b) my Supervisor doesn't take complete notes; (c) my Supervisor doesn't watch and listen to the parent-child interactions 100% of the time; (d) my Supervisor has private conversations with the other parent via text and email that get filed in court as proof that the Supervisor is in favor of the other parent's point of view; (e) my Supervisor is always late for visits; and many more.

We  talk with these parents about the Hannah's House Rules and Guidelines. We explain that rules of the Supervisor, in California, are derived from the California Administrative Rules of Court 5.20 and Family Code 3200.5. We then describe the guidelines our staff follow in order to address these types of issues that may occur during supervised visitation:

·        Stay close to the child/ren throughout the visit - the standard is 100% eye-shot and earshot.  NO parent/child interaction is allowed to be out of 100% eye-shot and earshot of the Supervisor - it is the supervisor's responsibility to ensure that nothing is missed

·       If the Supervisor is too far away to hear an adult who is speaking in a low voice (or a whisper) then that Supervisor is too far away - there is never an excuse for missing what is said during a visit. If the environment is loud then it is the Supervisor's responsibility to ensure 100% earshot of everything that is said by the parent to the chid(ren).

·        Scan frequently visually for all parties to your visit to ensure safety and security - if a parent is not close enough to a young child walking along a street or across a street to ensure safety the supervisor must intervene with the parent

·        NO cell phone use by clients during visits except in an emergency and it must be pre-approved with the Supervisor - this includes the children and the grown-ups. 

·        ANY use of a screen (phone, tablet, laptop) of any kind that is going to be shown to a child must be within full site of the Supervisor at all times - pictures/videos from the past can only be shown with pre-approval by the supervisor and the other parent

Hannah's House does not transport children in private cars due to the potential liability issues regardless of insurance. Special insurance is required by a business person who is transporting a child as part of their business, so consumers should ask Supervisors to see proof of that insurance prior to allowing the Supervisor to transport their child. 

It is important to know that many supervisors use their cell phones or small tablets for documentation purposes while providing services, especially when offsite.  Some clients tend to think sometimes that Supervisors are playing on their phones or texting when in reality they are documenting or communicating with other staff regarding breaks, or questions on how to handle a situation at that particular time. 

Recommendations are specifically forbidden in the California Administrative Rules and in the Family Code. Most custody evaluators are not familiar with the rules and laws that govern Supervisors, which is understandable. However, some custody evaluators consider the Supervisor to be "boots on the ground" for the evaluator and give the Supervisor specific instructions about how to deliver services in a way that might be beneficial to the evaluator. This is unethical and is a violation of the Rules and the Family Code if the Supervisor complies. If a judge orders a Supervisor to give a recommendation, it is the responsibility of the Supervisor to decline and cite the Rules and the Family Code.

There is no oversight of the supervised visitation profession in California. The only legal requirements to become a "professional" are: (1)  24 hours of training; and (2) completion of a Family Law form FL-324. Some counties compensate for this lack of consumer protection by using the Court Resource list to inform consumers about the Rules and the Family Code; and to require Supervisors to publicize that they do or not have appropriate automobile insurance and business liability insurance. Many also require a proof of a background check or Trustline certification in order to be accepted for the Court List. It is important to note that San Diego County only requires that the consumer either accept or decline a liability release that states the consumer is responsible for any harm or injuries that may occur when they select a Supervisor off the Court list; or use any resource provided.

Hannah's House is committed to a continual improvement process every day in our provision of these high stakes services in our community. We review all documentation completed by our supervisors every week to ensure completeness and accuracy. When we make a mistake, violate a rule, or violate the law, we immediately conduct an investigation and then reach out as quickly as possible to the consumer involved and acknowledge the mistake and propose options to address our error.

Hannah's House is a member of the Supervised Visitation Network Worldwide.  SVN is a multi-national non-profit membership organization that is literally a network of agencies and individuals who are interested in assuring that children can have safe, conflict-free access to parents with whom they do not reside. We believe that networking with other professionals and talking about our work for the purpose of performing to the highest possible standards is the only way to increase the professionalism and credibility and ethical behavior of the community of professional providers of supervised visitation in California.

As a consumer, you should inform yourself about the laws (Family Code 3200.5) and rules (Administrative Rules of Court 5.20) that your supervisor is required to follow.  If you believe that your supervisor has behaved unprofessionally; unethically; or conducted him or herself in a biased manner or engaged in a conflict of interest on your case you may file a formal complaint with Michael Roddy, the San Diego Superior Court Administrator.  michael.roddy@sdcourt.ca.gov. Review 5.20 and highlight the section(s) that apply to your concern and include that with your letter of concern.

Hannah House