The current situation has impacted many relationships. In some cases, due to remote visitation, foster and birth parents are now in direct communication for the first time. As a result, emails, phone numbers and other personal contact information might be shared. This post explains how to use technology and maintain privacy during virtual visitations.
Virtual visits are an opportunity for healing and connection; both foster parents and birth parents should be aware of how they might have to communicate differently in this format. To reduce trauma responses from parents not showing up or abruptly ending the call, here are topics to consider:
Who will set up the call - identify which platform, decide on the time, and “host” the call?
Who is going to do what during the call?
How long will the call be?
How and when will you decide on what the next meeting / other next steps will be?
How will the call end? Who will click the end button?
Schedule the visitation at least a day in advance so everyone has time to prepare.
Have an ice breaker or a few conversation topics ready to initiate conversation. Consider doing a fun activity together during the virtual visitation, in addition to simply talking.
Pick a designated, quiet location for the virtual visitation so there are minimal background distractions. Using earphones may help reduce background noise.
There are several options to facilitate important virtual connections while maintaining privacy for everyone, helping to avoid sharing email/phone information and ensure that only those who are meant to be in the visitation are there.
Zoom allows everyone to interact without swapping phone numbers. Attendees can use Zoom for audio only or for both audio and video conversations. Zoom is offering free meetings up to 40 minutes and has an extensive library of Zoom tutorials and help videos.
Zoom has a default feature restricting users entering the call known as the waiting room. This will let you choose who to let into the call. We highly recommend using this feature.
We recommend setting up a separate email account to use with Zoom.
Use Google Voice to make phone calls from your phone. Google Voice gives anyone a new Google Voice phone number that connects to your regular phone. This allows someone to share their Google Voice number, without having to share their regular, personal phone number.
Some foster parents have a second phone that they use exclusively for contact with the child’s network.
Of course, children and teens can email parents, upload homework, pictures, etc.
There are a variety of other video conferencing options; however, they pose additional risks to consider.
Houseparty is a free social networking app that allows up to eight people to video chat at once in a “room,” and allows you to play games and interact in a variety of ways. However, House Party is riskier because the participant is prompted to link your contacts; suggested people related to the contacts you add may pose a risk. Unless the room is intentionally locked, uninvited people may end up participating in the conversation, and anyone that is in the House Party can unlock the room. If a family chooses to use it, we recommend using a foster parent’s phone.
Anyone can make calls and FaceTime calls from their phone; however, this risks sharing their phone number.
Some foster parents have been creative in continuing visitation between the birth parent and child by:
Taking video of an infant and narrating it with info about doctor’s appointments, developmental milestones, and little stories about the baby and forwarding it to the parents.
For older youth, meeting at a drive-thru restaurant, purchasing food and parking near the birth parents who are close enough for conversation but adhering to social distancing guidelines.
As allowed by local governments, meet in a public spot like a part for social-distancing visitation.
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