25, No. 2
Families Love Wake County's New Family Visitation Center
Family time, or parent-child visits, are the most effective yet under-utilized tool we have in child welfare for moving families toward permanency (Nesmith, 2013). Whether a parent visits with their child consistently is the strongest indicator of whether reunification will occur (Leathers, et. al 2010; Ansay & Perkins, 2001).
By being purposeful in how we structure, plan, and implement family time, we create opportunities for parents to maintain their connection to their child, for children to build secure attachment, and for families to heal (Smariga, 2007).
The following factors have been proven to reduce the length of time a child spends in foster care:
(Cheng, 2010; White, Albers & Bitonti, 1996; JIF, 2018)
Applying What We Know
Wake County changed their practices around family time in late 2018. Before then, visits were held in their human services office building. According to Paige Rosemond, Wake County's Child Welfare Director, "visits were in a 10x10 room, cramped, sterile. Parents had to walk past what could be their peers or other community members to be able to access the visitation. They couldn't take their children to the bathroom without someone with badge access" (Blanford, 2019). Wake County wanted to do something new--to get outside the box.
Wake House is truly a house. This family visitation center has a living room, a fully stocked kitchen, multiple private rooms for families, and a large backyard with a basketball court. At Wake House, parents can cook dinner while their children do homework. Families are able to eat meals together around the dining room table. They can relax, watch TV, play video games, and read books together.
Parents say it "feels like home" and enjoy coming there. Children are now excited to come to their visits (Wake County Human Services, 2019).
What's more, parents are assigned a visitation coach who provides education, mentoring, and support to help them be more successful in their interactions with their children. Parenting classes are also held at Wake House (Blanford, 2019).
To Learn More
To learn more about Wake House, consult the following: