Monday, January 16, 2006

Supervised visitation monitors face little oversight - CA

Supervised visitation monitors face little oversight

I was particularly comforted by this, "The list of monitors from the Superior Court includes a disclaimer that the court "does not select, evaluate, endorse or supervise" those on the list and that they "have not been screened" regarding law enforcement, children's services bureau or personal history." Isn't it wonderful that such people might be involved in YOUR custody case?


The monitors, however, face virtually no oversight, and parents or attorneys with complaints about them have few options.

Some court officials and others say they lack the authority and ability to take any action when parents or attorneys complain about the monitors, and that more oversight and regulation is needed.

Karen Oehme, program director of the Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation at Florida State University, said communities "continue to grapple" with what standards and skills supervised visitation monitors should have, and state lawmakers ultimately will have to make any changes."I think certification and monitoring of supervised visitation programs is definitely the future of supervised visitation," Oehme said. "The thing is, it takes money. It will be a state-by-state issue and will be done legislatively."

A local, outspoken critic of the family courts, however, said increased oversight and regulation will not help and that supervised visitation should be scrapped altogether except in cases of documented abuse."

I think we ought to explode the myth of oversight," said Bonnie Russell, 55, of Del Mar, who started the Web site during her own custody battle and believes more government involvement is not the answer. "There's not enough budget for real oversight, but more importantly, there's not enough interest."

Superior Court judges generally order supervised visitation for noncustodial parents in divorces that involve allegations of substance abuse by parents, child abuse, domestic violence, parents "venting" to kids about their estranged spouses, or parents sending messages to each other through a child, said Superior Court Judge William Howatt, the supervising judge for the family court in San Diego County.

Supervised visitation monitors can be "nonprofessional" ---- family members or friends on which both sides agree who are not paid ---- or "professional," paid monitors. Paid monitors generally charge between $16.50 an hour to $70 an hour, some monitors said. The rate sometimes is based on parents' income.

California adopted criteria in 1998 that all supervised visitation monitors must satisfy, but no regulatory agency exists for the monitors, a state court official said.

Patricia Chavez-Fallon, the director of the Superior Court's Family Court Services in San Diego County, said people who want to be paid monitors submit documentation to the court showing they have attended a training class and meet the other state standards, which essentially require that monitors be 21 or older and free of any legal trouble in the previous 10 years. Chavez-Fallon then adds them to an alphabetical list of supervised visitation monitors that the court provides.

The state standards, however, do not specify how much training someone should receive, and state and local officials do not certify or authorize specific agencies to do the training, officials said.

The list of monitors from the Superior Court includes a disclaimer that the court "does not select, evaluate, endorse or supervise" those on the list and that they "have not been screened" regarding law enforcement, children's services bureau or personal history.

Howatt said that providing the list may give the appearance that the court sanctions or approves the monitors, but it does not. The court's role is just to determine whether the monitors meet the qualifications in the state standards, Howatt said.

Nevertheless, what monitors write about their observations during supervised visits affects decisions judges make, but how much of an effect they have depends on the questions at issue in each case, Howatt said.

Officials at Griffin's company, Hannah's House at Real Solutions Center for Children, said that if someone completes the 40-hour training course the company offers at a cost of $600, Hannah's House is required to give them a certificate that they received training regardless of how much information they retain or what the trainer's impression of that person is.

Dalton said in an e-mail that the court has no legal authority to act on complaints about the supervised visitation monitors and cannot remove monitors from the list.

The court once removed a monitor from the list, but found it did not have the authority to do so. As a result, the monitor was put back on the list, Dalton said.

Chavez-Fallon said unhappy parents can go to a different monitor if they have a complaint.

Making that change is not that easy, however, with parents incurring court costs and attorneys fees to go back to court to get a new visitation order if the parents cannot agree on a new monitor, some familiar with the process said.

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Blogger Anonymous Nonprofit Director said...

As the Director of a Supervised Visitation Center in TX, I would like to point out that we have our own national organization that maintains Uniform Standards & Guidelines. If a center or provider becomes a member of SVN, they agree to follow those standards & guidelines. If interested, check out The tenor of this post sounds as though the writer believes that options do not exist. I agree that people need to be educated about how to choose a provider. If anyone is interested in learning how, SVN offers information free on how to find an appropriate visitation supervisor.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

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Supervised Visitation Monitors

5:58 AM  
Blogger Jenifer Lopez said...

When parents decide to get a divorce, the rights and interests of the children are often one of the most highly contested issues. Each parent may have different ideas as to which type of child custody arrangement is fair. Often, one parent is awarded physical custody of the children and the other parent is awarded visitation rights. Visit here to know more about: san diego child custody attorney

2:05 AM  

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