Vol. 15, No. 1 • November 2010

My Experience with Visits
One Youth's Perspective on Parent-Child Visitation

by Donisha, age 16, SaySo Board Member

Rules, regulations, and disrespect were the way I viewed DSS, but when it came to visits I took an entirely different view. At first all I did was hate DSS, because they took me away from my mom and my sister. However, I started to have a change of heart when I first heard the word “visitation.”

To me that word “visitation” was like a rainbow suddenly appearing out of a dull sky; happiness began to fill me up. My family was the most important thing in my life, it was all that I had, all that I loved, and all that I could depend on. They were my one source of happiness and just knowing I could be reunited with my family made me overjoyed.

That is how I felt about visits, until I actually got to the visiting room and found out visitation was nothing to get excited over.

The First Visit
By the time the first visitation took place, I had not seen my family in an entire month. To me this felt like torture, even though I and one of my younger sisters had been placed together. I wanted all my family together.

When I arrived, I saw my mom waiting for us. I immediately ran up and hugged her. I did the same when my younger sister pulled up along with the social worker, who instructed us to follow her into a room. It was a small room with toys and books, two couches, a table, and three chairs.

The social worker said, “This is where all your visits will be held, and they will be two hours long.”

I was immediately enraged and said, “What?! Two hours? That is not enough!” But she simply said, “I’m sorry, it’s DSS policy.”

After that, I made sure my two hours would be used up to its entirety, not a minute wasted.

Visits Get Shorter
After the first few months the 2-hour visits ended—I found out they would only be one hour a month! It was such an injustice, I wanted to say every curse word in the book.

After that, I only saw my family once a month for one hour. Visits always took place in a small room at DSS, supervised by a social worker, with no privacy at all. To me this did not seem right, but it was policy.

I was so angry that I fussed at the social worker and called the supervisor. To me it seemed DSS had a plan and it did not involve our feelings at all, and especially not during visitations.

An Improvement
At the end of that year, towards the holidays, DSS started to lighten up. DSS had become what I like to call “THOUGHTFUL.” My social worker arranged for us to spend first Thanksgiving and then Christmas Eve and Christmas together with my mom and sister.

All of this kindness just made me feel exuberant; I guess this was their way of making up for all the time they stole from us.

After the Holidays
After the holidays, however, visitations went right back to the same old thing that they always been, with one exception.

While my mom was getting herself together, she had gotten a new house, and it was completely furnished and everything. My social worker surprised me and took me to my mom’s house for the visit instead of holding it at DSS. So we spent our visit there, almost unsupervised.

Also, since it was not at DSS, it allowed me to see my cousin, who I had not seen in almost a year because DSS restricted visits to immediate family only. (This absolutely tore me up.)

An End of Visits
Although DSS was being nice, it all ended with the passing away of my mom. Yes, I know my mom is in a better place, but why did the visits with my younger sister have to end? DSS always tries to do something nice but later ends up ruining it.

Out of all my life being a foster child, dealing with the DSS system, and all of their rules and policies, visitations were the only thing I looked forward to. No matter how short or where they were held, visitations were the highlight of my day.

Sure, DSS controlled the visits, but they could never control the emotional feeling I had at the end of each visit. Yes, my visits at DSS were not long enough, or ever seemed family oriented, but a visit is a visit, and it was all we got.

I completely appreciated the visits, but I will never love the policies and rules.

Copyright 2010 Jordan Institute for Families