Update 3/30 – Foster Families

By March 30, 2020May 22nd, 2020General
DCFS Message on Parent-Child Time

Last week, we forwarded some information from DCFS, including a link to an online DCFS COVID-19 Reference Guide, intended to provide additional guidance and direction for all of us who interact with the child welfare system. Things have been changing so quickly, as new information comes to light, and this reference guide continues to be updated regularly.  It would be a good idea to check back periodically for additional updates.
One of the sections updated today addresses Parent-Child Time.  Many states are struggling to figure out how to best keep children and families safe while also nurturing child-parent relationships for children in foster care. 
Utah is no different in that regard, and is working to balance keeping children, families, and staff healthy and safe while also honoring the role of parent-child time, which is particularly important during this time of crisis and heightened anxiety. 
While I acknowledge that there will certainly be challenges to overcome as this is addressed on a case by case basis, I also believe that your efforts will be worth it and benefit the children in your care.
Below is a message from Diane Moore, Director of DCFS, along with a link to the DCFS COVID-19 Reference Guide.
Thank you – Mike Hamblin, CEO, Utah Foster Care  
 Clarification regarding Parent-Child time

Greetings! We have made significant updates to the DCFS COVID-19 Reference Guide that we shared last week. I thought you and those you serve would be particularly interested in Section 10 of the document entitled Parent-Child Time. While we thought that what we sent out last week was clear regarding our priorities and expectations, we got enough feedback from enough places to realize it may have been misunderstood by some.

Parent-child time is substantially linked to positive outcomes in child welfare and is a cornerstone of any reunification services. We believe it can proceed safely. These guidelines adhere to CDC guidelines and are based on both science and compassion in order to ensure the health and safety of all, both physically and emotionally. 

When I first shared these guidelines, information was coming quickly and we were operating on a very short term directive from our Governor, but that has now been extended until at least April 13th. The Governor’s new Stay Safe, Stay Home initiative outlines all sorts of things that can be done safely during parent-child time. And when he references “not visiting friends and family without an urgent need”, he clearly is validating parent-child time as urgent since he makes it clear that this order is not intended to disrupt scheduled parent-child time even though it involves children interacting with individuals from two households.

Parent-child time is not a mere convenience or a play date. It is the preservation and building up of the most foundational and long lasting human relationship. These children and parents will never get this time back in their lives, and disruption of meaningful parent-time would be a huge mistake, not only for the parents and children we serve, but it could potentially disrupt later termination or adoptive proceedings if the parent did not successfully reunify.
Please know that our focus has not changed, but hopefully this wording is much more clear regarding what our intention for parent-child time has always been during this crisis. Thank you so much for all you do to support the children we serve and the wonderful families who care for them so well, especially during unusual and unpredictable times such as these. Have a wonderful weekend, and be safe!

Best, Diane Moore
Director, Division of Child and Family Services
dmoore@utah.gov dcfs.utah.gov