How to conduct visitation by phone or video?

This guidance applies to children placed out of state as well as in-state:

Can we use videos or phone calls to conduct safety visits?

"Yes [we can use videos or phone calls to conduct safety visits], and I don't think it's just applicable necessarily just to placed out of state. There's a lot about face-to-face visits when they're even in-state, where there's some reason to feel concerned about the health and safety of the kids themselves. And again trying to protect the spread of this disease. We just have issued a policy question and answer to our child welfare policy manual that will permit agencies to use video conferencing to meet the Title IV - B. That's the part of the law with monthly caseworker visit requirements under some circumstances. I have to be concerned that we see our kids out there. It's one of our primary responsibilities right now, without undermining at all or underplaying the challenge that it presents to us. We have to be able to check on children in vulnerable situations and we have to see them and we have to assess safety at every contact, whether that's by a video conferencing mechanism or whether or not it's face-to-face, but we have given that flexibility under some circumstances."

— Dr. Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, ACF, March 19, 2020 (source)

There doesn't seem to be a set of best practices for these types of visits as of yet, though that might change in the future:

Are there best practices for tracking visits that are completed via technology such as FaceTime or Skype to ensure these activities are accurately reflected?

"Yeah, we're looking at right now. We're asking one of our key providers to do a search of the literature to see what is there. To be very frank, I don't think there currently exists a lot in the way of best practices around this because I don't think it's the best practice if I’m quite honest with you to conduct face-to-face visits this way. This is an emergency measure and it's not something that we would want to promote. It's not an ongoing way of doing business. So I think the literature and experience that we have is how to be as effective with those face-to-face visits. Having said all of that, I love the example that you just gave about being able to track that and I think the more that that we learn about that through your experience and through the experience of others who are doing it. We'd like to put that stuff up on our central website. I'm sure Sixto would like to do the same thing, so that we can begin to share those kinds of practices that are that are helping to facilitate contacts and ensure that kids remain safety even through this crisis time." — Dr. Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau, ACF, March 19, 2020 (source)

In Georgia, "Skype, Facetime, or similar applications are approved temporarily as a platform for making quarterly face-to-face contacts. In the event of technology limitations, telephone calls can be used." (source)

With regards to privacy concerns, it's worth noting that the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued guidance on the many flexibilities that permit sharing of data in an emergency:

"The guidance from OCR makes clear that even though remote communication technologies may not fully comply with the requirements of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, the Department will not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA rules in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency."

Department of Health and Human Services (source)

For more advice on video visitation with young children, you can check out this free training on "Using Media Effectively with Young Children and Virtual Visitation" in two parts: Part 1 on Virtual Communication with Young Children and Part 2 on Using Media Play with Young Children.

Anything else?

If your questions are not answered here, please tell us more: Share an obstacle →