Visitation Must be as Frequent as Possible


Visitation must be as frequent as possible consistent with the well being of the child. This is the law. (Wel. & Inst. Code § 362.1.) Does a social worker’s schedule or budget cuts or scheduling difficulties trump the “as frequent as possible” requirement? No.

Usually, the well being of the child element is satisfied. Children want to see their parents. Therefore, it is in their well-being that visitation occur as frequent as possible.

Visits as frequent as possible says what it means.  If it is possible, is should occur. Is it possible to get a relative approved to do the visits? Yes. Does this happen? Rarely. Is it possible to squeeze an extra hour in addition to the minimum visitation allotment being that the visitation supervisor is already there, the facility is open and everyone is present? Yes. Is this attempted, considered or strived for on most occasions? No.

Often social workers just meet the minimum standards and do not strive for more. Social services will often cover what the court has ordered and stop there. The courts must be urged for additional visitation at all times with motions to the court coupled with case law and scientific articles to support the request for more visitation. (“Visitation with Infants and Toddlers in Foster Care: What Judges and Attorneys Need to Know” American Bar Association Practice and Policy Brief, July 2007.)

Studies have shown that frequent visitation IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD. (“Developmental Issues for Young Children in Foster Care” American Academy of Pediatrics Journal, Vol. 106 No. 5, Nov. 2000) More frequent visitation is necessary for younger children, babies requiring the most frequent.  These studies must be presented to social workers and courts so that they become educated about the science that backs up the legal arguments and motions presented before the courts. (Judge Leonard P. Edwards, “Judicial Oversight of Parental Visitation in Family Reunification Cases” Juvenile and Family Court Journal, Summer 2003)

Attorneys and social workers have become complacent. It is too easy for many attorneys to just accept the minimum requirement and stop pushing for more frequent visitation. Courts cannot be expected to micromanage visitation schedules, however, once educated by science and the law, a good judge will push and question social services for answers as to why visitation has not been increased. Social services must then answer (with facts) instead of just stating “well, your honor, scheduling difficulties, budget cuts, policy”.  In the face of scientific articles or testimony setting the foundation for the great need between increased frequent visitation, social services will be hard pressed to come up with an acceptable answer for the court to not grant increased visitation.

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Effect of Limited Visitation Between a Parent and a Child and how it Affects Your Ability to Reunify with Your Child


From the very beginning, minimum visitation will be ordered between a parent and a child. Often the court will give discretion to the social worker to increase visitation.  (In re Aaliyah R. (2006) 136 Cal. App. 4th 437, 440.) The Department of Social Services will usually not exercise that discretion for a multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with the overall relationship between the parent and the child. It will often be caused by lack of resources and staffing issues.  Time will pass in court where hearings take place and months will go by with the minimum visitation still in effect.  The bond between the child and the parent will fade.

Once the parent makes it through the court process and trial they will be granted reunification in most cases and the parents will be given a case plan for reunification.  The minimum visitation schedule will usually still be in effect.  On occasion, social services will take the position that in order to increase visitation at this point, there needs to be therapeutic intervention because so much time has passed and the visitation must be evaluated by a professional to assess how the increase in visitation should proceed. Once therapeutic intervention is in place, there will be “issues” preventing increased visitation (because there always is). It will be a rare case where there are no issues to resolve prior to increasing visitation once therapeutic intervention takes place. The inception of the therapeutic visitation usually never really stems from anything about the case as it does from the lack of visitation over the last several months that has now created the need for closer inspection of a visit.

The request for a therapist, lapse of time for the court process to work itself out, all works against the clock between a parent and child.  Timelines for reunification tick away and before the parent realizes, time is up, services are terminated and because the parent never made it to unsupervised visitation, the court is now going to seek a permanent arrangement for the child such as adoption, long term foster care or guardianship. According to the courts, once the 12 to 18 month period is over, the juvenile court must conduct a permanency planning hearing after which reunification services are no longer contemplated. (Jones T. v. Superior Court (1989) 215 Cal.Appl.3d 240, 252.)

Attorneys need to strive for increased visitation at each and every stage of a court proceeding to avoid the common pitfall that occurs in dependency cases. There must be constant requests made of social workers and their supervisors to increase visitation at every given moment. Social services should be forced to articulate why visitation is not being increased and scheduling should never be an acceptable response.

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Visitation in the World of Social Services and Juvenile Court


In the world of social services, social workers think that supervised visits for one hour once per week or two times per month is an acceptable visitation schedule for parents who have had their children taken from them for allegations of abuse or neglect.  Often social workers will only accept supervised visitation to begin with and still keep the visitation to a minimum. This makes no sense. The law states that visitation must be as frequent as possible consistent with the well being of the child. (Wel. & Inst. Code § 362.1.) If the visitation is supervised then what is the harm in increasing the visitation?  There is no reason not to increase visitation between a parent and child when it is supervised. Where is the risk? If it is supervised then there is no risk.

Often social workers will refuse to increase the visitation between parents and children but they will not say why. They will often use the vague excuse that it is not their “policy” although the policy is: reunification of parents and children. It is the legal duty of social workers to act for the child’s welfare and preserve and strengthen the child’s family ties whenever possible. (In re Danielle W. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1227, 1234-35.)

What better to strengthen the familial bond than with frequent visitation.  Often children yearn to see their parents when they are taken away. The children are traumatized and scared.  How is one hour a week sufficient?  How could severely limiting visitation be in the “best interests” of the children?  Often social workers will state that they are overworked and that the Department is understaffed and they cannot make arrangements to increase the court ordered minimum visitation. This is an unacceptable excuse that puts schedules ahead of a child’s desire for the familial connection that they yearn for when they are stripped from everything they are familiar with and put into a stranger’s home. Courts delegate social workers the authority to determine the manner of visitation because they are supposedly better equipped than the courts with resources and flexibility to supervise each case consist with the child’s best interests. (In re Moriah T. (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 1367, 1376.)

Relatives or close family friends can help with the visitation.  (San Diego County Dep’t of Social Services v. Tina G. (In re Tabatha G) (1996) 45 Cal.App.4th 1159, 1163.) This is often overlooked or simply dismissed.  Relative supervision could increase visitation between the children and their parents. It is cost free, it eliminates the stranger in the room taking notes during visitation creating an unnatural environment, and relatives are flexible and can supervise visits at times beyond the five o’clock hour.

Attorneys need to push for more creative ideas, suggest them to the court, and urge social services to consider alternatives for visitation.  Without a doubt, more visitation is in the “best interest” of children. Frequent visitation helps strengthen the bond between the parent and the child so that the bond is not damaged during the often long process where the court makes determinations in regard to the truth or falsity of the allegations made against a parent.

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A parent’s win against CPS in California

A recent decision was just announced in L.Z. V. Superior Court, 188 Cal. App. 4th, 1285.

Lesson to be learned for all parents in the State of California. Never stop fighting for your parental rights. In a unanimous decision issued by the Appellate Court, a mother was granted services to reunify with her child just days before a termination of her parental rights was scheduled to occur. Her case turned around for her on the day that the court issued a unanimous decision in her favor.  Don’t settle and continue fighting CPS.

The County, CPS, must prove to the court that the parent knew or should have known that their child was being abused when a serious Welfare and Institutions Code 300(e) matter is alleged against them.  Without this proof, the County’s petition is worthless.  Just alleging serious physical abuse such as broken bones is not enough. There must be proof brought to the court that the parent knew or should have known of the abuse that caused the child’s injuries.

It is imperative that your juvenile lawyer fights aggressively for your rights and for the law in juvenile court.  Carin Johnson, from the Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson won the reversal in the First District Court of Appeal. This was a tremendous victory for parent’s rights throughout the state. CPS social workers may no longer just allege serious physical injury and ask for termination of parental rights — without proof that the parent knew or should have known of the injuries.

In some jurisdictions in California, these very serious child abuse cases are being filed more commonly than history has shown. The outcome of these serious allegations is likely a fast track to the termination of parental rights.  It is imperative that your attorney has the experience and knowledge to handle these types of cases. Contact The Law Offices of Johnson & Johnson, at

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