NACo has recognized Los Angeles County, California as having a “Model Program” in family reunification procedures. Los Angeles County has instituted a program in which they ask local churches, business, or other neutral sites to donate space to serve as Visitation Centers for families with children in the foster care system. The Visitation Centers are cozy, nonclinical atmospheres designed to be “home-like.” The Centers are staffed by volunteers trained to be counselors in family reunification situations. Families in Los Angeles County who are making use of the Visitation Centers find the spaces to be welcoming and conducive to better bonding; the county social workers feel that the reunification process goes more quickly and more smoothly thanks to the calm and welcoming visitation sites.
Sonia Contreras, assistant regional administrator for the south county DCFS office, said the department knew it had to get the community involved to improve the quality and effectiveness of the family services the county offered. After some “cold call” visits to area churches, Contreras found a few willing to donate space for visitation centers.
“Visitation is crucial to pursuing reunification of families,” she said. “If getting more people and resources involved is helpful, we are going to do that.”
More information on this program is available by clicking here.