Online Virtual Supervised Visitation during the COVID-19 Pandemic: One State’s Experience
59 Family Court Review (2021, Forthcoming)
30 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 24, 2020
This paper describes how supervised visitation programs in a Florida rapidly transitioned from in-person supervised visits to virtual, online visits during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the health of families and staff. Structured telephonic interviews and an online survey revealed that although most program directors had not previously developed guiding policies or hosted such visits, within weeks they were providing hundreds of online “virtual visits” between children and their non-custodial parents to maintain the crucial parent-child relationship in a safe manner. Vignettes from this data provide lessons regarding parent and child reactions to virtual visits, advantages and disadvantages of virtual visits from the programs’ perspectives, and levels of enthusiasm for using virtual visits going forward. In addition the data include recommendations for new program guidelines and protocols for the ongoing use of virtual visits. Although it is too early to call these policies best practices, the study does offer insight into the challenges and opportunities afforded by virtual visits and can inform disaster planning that supervised visitation programs develop to prepare for inevitable future disruptions in services to families.
Keywords: supervised visitation, COVID-19, virtual visits
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