Topic: Visitation Programs

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Visitation Programs:

Visitation Programs are defined by the CEBC as programs that support face-to-face contact between parents and their children who are in out-of-home care or noncustodial parents and their children who currently do not live with them. Visitation maintains parent-child relationships necessary for successful family reunification while maintaining child safety. These services are typically scheduled in advance in a neutral setting. Visits can occur on a continuum of support and may be unsupervised or may include monitoring, coaching, and/or supervision during visits. Research that has been conducted on visitation identifies maintaining parent-child relationships and other family attachments, as well as reducing the sense of abandonment that children experience during placement, as potential benefits of this type of intervention. Since 2007, the CEBC has highlighted supervised visitation programs. In order to include programs that use different types of visitation models, the CEBC revised and expanded this topic area in June 2018.

  • Target population: Families with children in out-of-home care, or families involving a noncustodial parent(s)
  • Services/types that fit: Services focused on supporting the visitation process that may occur in an office, community, or home setting; visits may be unsupervised or may include monitoring, coaching, and/or supervision during visits
  • Delivered by: Child welfare workers, social workers, foster (relative and nonrelative) parents, mental health providers, trained professionals, or paraprofessionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically target visitation as a goal
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by the Scientific Rating Scale) that examines the outcomes of visitation services, such as decreased time to reunification, increased attachment between the parent and the child(ren), or improved parenting skills.

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

One Program with a Scientific Rating of 3 - Promising Research Evidence:

  • kContact
    Parents of children and young people in long-term out-of-home care who have supervised contact with them

13 Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:

Why was this topic chosen by the Advisory Committee?

The Visitation Programs topic area is relevant to child welfare because it is often a necessary step towards reunification of a child with their birth parent. Visitation has been found to be strongly associated with the outcomes of placement, particularly family reunification, and with the length of stay in foster care. According to research, the children who were visited most frequently were more likely to be reunified with their parents and to experience shorter placements before reunification. In addition, researchers have found a relationship between the frequency of the parent-child visits and the child(ren)’s well-being while in foster care. Children in foster care who are visited frequently by their parents are more likely to have high well-being ratings and are more likely to adjust well to their foster care placement than are children less frequently or never visited. Frequent visiting has consistently been found not only to emotionally benefit children in care but also to contribute to the achievement of permanency.

Stuart Oppenheim
Executive Director
Child and Family Policy Institute of California
Sacramento, CA

Topic Expert

The Supervised Visitation Programs topic area was originally launched in 2007. Peg Hess, PhD, was the topic expert and was involved in identifying and rating any of the programs with an original load date of December 2007 (as found on the bottom of the program’s page on the CEBC). All of the programs in this topic area that were added from 2008 to 2017 were identified by CEBC staff, the Scientific Panel, and/or the Advisory Committee. For these programs, Dr. Hess was not involved in identifying or rating them. In 2018, the topic area was revised and expanded to include both supervised and unsupervised visitation and visitation support programs. The topic expert for the 2018 topic area revision is listed below:

Ande Nesmith, MSW, PhD, LISW, Associate Professor
St. Kate-St. Thomas School of Social Work, University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, MN