June E-Press

Happy Month of June!! We are pleased to share with you our newest E-Press full of wonderful information for parents and monitors. We have articles about encouraging physical activity in children, an article about nurturing and attachment, a handout for preschool-aged children, as well as the first half of our newest training manual chapter entitled, “Florida’s Framework for Supervised Visitation.”

June EPress Part 1

June EPress Part 2

We hope you enjoy this month’s edition!

Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation
The Institute for Family Violence Studies
Florida State University
In the Protective Factor training, can you explain how we can prove that we are providing our clients with all this information?
Yes – there’s a form for that! In every visit, in intake, and when a visit ends, parents can receive important information about the Protective Factors. The program staff document what information was given to parents in a separate form that goes in the case file. For a copy of that form, please contact Karen at koehme@fsu.edu

Is there a good resource you recommend online for our clients to learn about water safety?
Yes! DCF has created wonderful resources that you can download. Go here: http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/child-welfare/water-safety-tips
We recommend that every parent should receive information about water safety. It’s easy and free, and it saves lives.
You can get free fliers in English AND in Spanish! http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childwelfare/water-safety/FlierEyes.pdf
In addition, there are short videos here:


In the last phone conference, you provided a training on Safe Sleep. Do you have a one-page handout we can give to our clients?
Yes, we are working on that, as promised. It will be included in the Agenda for the June Phone Conference. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, feel free to use the resources of the Ounce of Prevention. Go here:
There are high quality brochures on how to create a sleep routine here:
Encouraging Children to be Physically Active
By Elena Simonsen
With the rise in use of technology and social media over the past decade or so, it has become more common to see children on their cell phones or watching television rather than playing outdoors with friends. Being sedentary has been linked with several negative health outcomes, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Therefore, it is important for parents and supervised visitation monitors to encourage children to limit the amount of time that they spend in front of a screen, and get active!
Inform parents and visit monitors about:
• Why being physically active is important for children, and how it can benefit them
• How they can help children get the physical activity that their bodies need
The Benefits of Physical Activity
Being physically active benefits children physically, mentally, and emotionally. Knowing how exercise can benefit children, parents and visit monitors can better understand the importance of exercise for children, and how they can help to enhance these benefits.
Physical Benefits
During exercise, hormones called endorphins are produced. Endorphins can help to decrease pain, which may be especially helpful for teenage girls experiencing premenstrual syndrome, as the endorphins produced by exercise can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS. Additionally, exercise has been linked to:
• Strong bones and muscles
• Decreased risk of being overweight
• Decreased risk of developing diabetes
• Decreased blood pressure and cholesterol levels
• Decreased risk of heart disease
• Decreased risk of developing cancer
• Better sleep quality
Mental Benefits
Exercise can help promote brain growth and development. Increased exercise has been linked to an increase in the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is involved in memory and learning. Exercise also leads the body to release growth factors, which are chemicals that help brain cells and blood vessels in the brain to grow and thrive.
Exercise also helps children develop better motor skills, enhances their thinking and problem solving skills, and improves attention spans. All of these skills may help children to perform better in school.
Emotional Benefits
In addition to decreasing physical pain, the endorphins released during exercise can also improve children’s moods. Thus, it makes sense that exercise can be helpful in improving children’s mental health of. Exercise can:
• Decrease stress
• Decrease anxiety
• Increase positive thinking
• Increase self-confidence and self-esteem
• Improve relationships (especially through participation in team sports)
• Improve body image
Ways to Encourage Children to be Active
Knowing the benefits of physical activity, parents and visit monitors may be wondering how they can encourage children to get the exercise that their bodies need. There are many different ways children can get the recommended sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day, including playing sports, riding bike, and going for a walk. Children should engage in a variety of types of exercise. Three main areas of exercise that children should engage in are aerobics (such as running, walking, and jumping), strength (such as push-ups and sit-ups), and flexibility (such as toe touches, arm stretches).
Some age-specific activity guidelines from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) can be found in the chart below:
Age Minimum Daily Activity Examples
Infants No specific requirements • encourage motor development
Toddler 1½ hours • encourage motor development
Preschoolers 2 hours • kicking or throwing a ball
• tag
• follow the leader
• freeze dance
• riding a bike
• obstacle courses
School age Children 1 hour or more • sports like basketball or martial arts
• biking
• hiking
Teenagers 1 hour or more • school sports
• yoga
• skateboarding

To help motivate children to be more active, parents and visit monitors can:
• help children to choose activities that are age appropriate
• give children many opportunities to be active
• provide children with the equipment they need for sports and other activities
• take children to a playground or park
• sign children up for community sports leagues
• establish a regular exercise schedule
• model healthy amounts of physical activity
• keep the focus on having FUN!
While it is very important for children to be physically active, it is also possible for children to be too active. Parents and visit monitors should remain vigilant and watch out for children that may exercise compulsively. These children may feel anxious if they can’t work out, be overly focused on body image, and miss out on social activities in order to exercise. Compulsive exercise can place excessive stress on the body and increase their levels of anxiety and stress. Teenage girls are most likely to develop compulsive exercise behaviors. It is important for parents to be good role models with regards to exercise and body image in order to help prevent and combat compulsive exercise in children.
Physical activity should be an essential part of children’s days. Federal guidelines suggest that children get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Remaining active provides many benefits for children, and can positively impact their bodies, minds, and emotions. Parents and supervised visitation monitors can help children to be more active and thus experience the wonderful benefits of exercise!
• A plethora of resources for raising healthy, active children can be found here: https://medlineplus.gov/exerciseforchildren.html

Alexander, S. (2016, July 18). Physical activity: Benefits of exercise for health and wellbeing. Retrieved from
Gavin, M.L. (2013, October). Compulsive Exercise. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/compulsive-exercise.html#
Gavin, M.L. (2014, October). Motivating Kids to be Active. Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/active-kids.html#
Gavin, M.L. (2016, December). Kids and Exercise. Retrieved from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/exercise.html
Medline Plus (n.d.). Exercise for Children. Retrieved from
The American Heart Association (2016, October 18). The AHA’s Recommendations for Physical Activity in Children. Retrieved from: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/Physical-Activity-and-Children_UCM_304053_Article.jsp#.WRMZ_uXyuM9

The Serve and Return Response
By Elena Simonsen
The Clearinghouse has been training providers on the Serve and Return Response for over a year. Here is a written description for parents.
The first few years of a child’s life are crucial to brain development and growth. During these first few years, connections in children’s brains begin to form as they interact with others and have new experiences. Parents and supervised visitation monitors can help aid in this process of brain and growth development through engaging in what is known as the serve and return response.
After reading this article, parents and supervised visitation monitors will know:
• What the serve and return response is
• How using the serve and return response is beneficial to children
• Some examples of the use of the serve and return response in everyday life
What is the Serve and Return Response?
The serve and return response occurs when an adult appropriately responds to a child. The serve and return response is a back-and-forth experience, requiring active participation of both adult and child. It may be helpful to think of this interaction as similar to a game of tennis. The child “serves” by reaching out to the adult in some way, whether that be by babbling, smiling, giggling, or gesturing. The adult should then “return” the child’s interaction by speaking, smiling, or laughing. Adults should be sensitive and responsive towards children in order to encourage these interactions.
Why is the Serve and Return Response Important?
When an adult appropriately returns a child’s “serve”, connections in that child’s brain are strengthened, helping the child to learn social skills and communication. These types of interactions can also help children to:
• learn to control their emotions
• deal with stress in a healthy way
• develop self-confidence
• learn the difference between what is right and what is wrong
• develop relationships with others
• learn to be compassionate towards others
Without these types of interactions, a child’s brain development may be impaired. A lack of serve and return interactions activates children’s stress response systems, causing them to feel distressed. Some barriers to using the serve and return response include:
• Technology
• Caregiver stress
• Financial difficulties
• Lack of social support
• Health issues
Examples of the Serve and Return Response
What does the serve and return response look like when put into action? Here are some examples by age:
Examples of The Serve and Return Response With Your Infant
Serve Return
• Baby babbles • Parent coos and smiles at baby
• Baby watches parent • Parent narrates what they are doing
The Serve and Return Response With Your Toddler
Serve Return
12-18 Months Old • Toddler takes items from other people • Parent says, “Joe was playing with that right now. You can have a turn when he’s done”
• Toddler points to something • Parent responds with the name of the item
18 Months- 2 Years Old • Toddler kicks or rolls a ball • Parent kicks or rolls the ball back, and then each takes a turn kicking or rolling it back and forth
2-3 Years Old • Toddler plays pretend • Parent plays along with him or her

You may notice that as children get older, the interactions involved in the serve and return response grow more complex. Returning serves isn’t very difficult and can be done in a variety of ways. The most important thing is that the adult being served to responds and actively engages with the serving child.

The serve and return response is important to the growth and development of a young child’s brain. In this type of interaction, a child will reach out to an adult, and the adult will need to respond in an appropriate manner. There are many different ways that these types of responses can occur. It is important for parents and supervised visitation monitors to be aware of what these interactions are and how to respond appropriately in order to promote the healthy growth and development of children.
Harvard University (n.d.). Serve and Return. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/serve-and-return/
Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (n.d.). Serve and Return. Retrieved from http://www.albertafamilywellness.org/what-we-know/serve-and-return
First, L.R. (n.d.). “Serve & Return” for Strong Brain Connections. Retrieved from http://www.letsgrowkids.org/blog/serve-return-strong-brain-connections
Healthy Parents Healthy Children (n.d.). How Your Toddler’s Brain is Developing. Retrieved from http://www.healthyparentshealthychildren.ca/toddlers-1-and-2-year-olds/growing-and-learning-with-your-toddler/how-your-toddlers-brain-is-developing/
Additional Handout for Parents of Preschoolers:
New Training Manual for Florida’s Supervised Visitation Programs

This Chapter explains Florida’s current standards, best practices, and statutory mandates for supervised visitation programs. It includes commonly asked questions for new programs. In order to understand Florida’s framework for supervised visitation, there are three documents which must be considered:

Florida Statute 753 Florida Supreme Court’s Minimum Standards 2008 Report to the Florida Legislature: Best Practices for Programs

The state of Florida has one of the most structured and transparent systems for the service of supervised visitation in the U.S. However, the state’s goal of formalizing a certification process and stabilizing programs financially has not yet been realized. Even without a certification and funding structure, though, there are still many training resources for programs funded by the Department of Children and Families.
In 2016, programs still use skeletal set of Florida Supreme Court Standards (called the “Interim Minimum Standards” in FL Statute 753) written in the late 1990’s. In addition, the Clearinghouse encourages programs to follow a more updated set of Recommended Standards, commonly referred to as “best practices,” from the 2008 Report to the Florida Legislature. Both are discussed below.
Note: Programs must work closely with the courts, but this chapter does not include information on that topic. Instead please see the chapter entitled “Working with the Court.”
Upon completion of this chapter, a visit monitor will be able to:
• Understand the elements of Florida Statute 753
• List the purposes of supervised visitation mandated by the Supreme Court’s Minimum Standards for Supervised Visitation Programs
• Understand the scope and limitations of the best practices in the 2008 Report to the Florida Legislature
• List the elements of a Client’s Agreement with the Program
• Describe the requirements of an Agreement for accepting child sexual abuse referrals
• Identify the Clearinghouse’s set of training materials and tools on the web
The Mission of Florida’s Supervised Visitation Programs is to use well-trained staff to provide safe and respectful Supervised Visitation and Monitored Exchange services and to coordinate these services within each community. Programs accomplish this mission by adhering to four principles: safety, training, dignity and diversity, and community.
(From the Report to the Florida Legislature, See Appendix)

• There are currently approximately 100 programs offering supervised visitation in Florida
• Most judicial circuits in Florida are home to at least one supervised visitation program
• Over the last decade, six programs in Florida have received federal funding from the US Office on Violence Against Women to provide supervised visitation in domestic violence cases.
• Approximately 28 programs receive federal Access and Visitation funding annually from the U.S. Office on Child Support Enforcement through the Florida Department of Children and Families
• There are three important documents that guide supervised visitation services in Florida: Florida Statute 753, The 1999 Florida Supreme Court’s Minimum Standards for Supervised Visitation Program Agreements; and the 2008 Report to the Florida Legislature. All can be found on the Clearinghouse website familyvio.csw.fsu.edu.
• Programs are developed to take a variety of cases. These may include dependency cases, divorce and post-divorce related cases, paternity cases, and criminal cases
The following definitions were created by the Supervised Visitation Standards Committee and appear in the Report to the Florida Legislature.
Supervised visitation is contact between a parent and a child overseen by a trained third party in a controlled environment which enhances the safety of all vulnerable parties. The contact between the parent and the child is structured so that program personnel may actively encourage the parent-child relationship by providing age-appropriate activities, helping parents develop or enhance parenting skills when necessary, modeling appropriate interactions with the child and discouraging inappropriate parental conduct. Although Supervised Visitation program staff facilitate and support the parent and the child relationship, facilitation and support should not be construed to mean therapeutic intervention rising to the level of therapist-client relationship.
A supervised visitation program is an entity that has as its core function the provision of supervised visitation and/or monitored exchange services, and which has entered into an agreement with the Chief Judge of the circuit in which the Program is located to provide services pursuant to the program agreement and court order. A Program is located to provide services pursuant to the program agreement and court order. A Program may operate under the auspices of the court, or be a not-for-profit corporation or association, or be a component of a larger not-for-profit corporation or association. Some private for-profit programs also exist in Florida.

Types of Supervised Visitation
• Group supervision: supervision of parent/child contact in which more than one family is supervised by one or more visit supervisors simultaneously; also referred to as “multiple=family” supervision
• Individual/”one to one” supervised visitation: one visitation monitor for one family
• Therapeutic Supervision: the provision of therapeutic evaluation or therapeutic intervention to help improve the parent-child interactions; may only be provided by order of the court and only by licensed mental health professionals who are also specifically trained to provide supervised visitation
• Facilitation or supportive/educational visitation: the means by which program personnel actively encourages the parent-child relationship, and should not be construed to mean therapeutic intervention rising to the level of a therapist-client relationship.
The Purposes of Supervised Visitation
According to the Minimum Standards, the purposes of supervised visits are
(1) To assure the safety and welfare of the child, adults, and program staff during supervised contact.
(2) To enable an ongoing relationship between the noncustodial parent and child by impartially observing their contact in a safe and structured environment and to facilitate appropriate child/parent interaction during supervised contact.
(3) Where appropriate, to provide written information to the court regarding the supervised contacts.
(4) Programs may also provide other services, including parenting education, mediation, assistance with parenting plans, and others, listed at: http://familyvio.csw.fsu.edu/clearinghouse/fl-programs/
The Florida law that deals directly with supervised visitation program function is Florida Statute 753. This statute outlines definitions and terms of supervised visitation services, describes the functions of the Clearinghouse on Supervised Visitation within Florida State University’s College of Social Work (in the Institute for Family Violence Studies), and creates the requirement for supervised visitation programs to have Agreements with the Court. It also provides additional rules for programs that accept cases involving child sexual abuse.
753.03 required the Clearinghouse to develop a new set of standards that will ensure the safety of children and families for supervised visitation programs. These were created and published in 2008, but they have not been approved by the legislature or “fully implemented.” They are only considered Best Practices, and are located at http://familyvio.csw.fsu.edu/clearinghouse/standards-best-practices/
753.04 mandates that until the standards for supervised visitation and supervised exchange programs are completed and a certification and monitoring process is fully implemented, supervised visitation programs must comply with the Minimum Standards for Supervised Visitation Programs Agreement adopted by the Supreme Court in 1999. These Standards require a supervised visitation program to form an agreement with the circuit court(s) within the geographic jurisdiction of the program which will confirm the willingness of the program to comply with the Supreme Court’s standards.
Under 753.04, programs cannot receive federal funding through the Department of Children and Families under 42 U.S.C. s. 669b, unless the program provides documentation to the state agency administering the grant that verifies an agreement between the program and the circuit court.
753.05: Referrals involving child sexual abuse
This section of the statute mandates that in order to accept referrals involving child sexual abuse, a visitation program must have an agreement with court and current affidavit of compliance on file. Additionally, the chief judge of the circuit in which the program is located must affirm that the program has agreed to comply with the minimum standards.
• The program must also have a written an agreement with the court and with the department that contains policies specifically related to child sexual abuse that include provisions for the following:
o Staff who supervises visits must have specific training on child sexual abuse by the Clearinghouse and that training must be documented in personnel files
o The program must have protocols on how to obtain background material on the family prior to starting services
o The program can only accept referrals for which the staff already has background material, training, and security in place to safely monitor visits.
o The program cannot accept referrals when staff lacks the education, training, background material, and the security necessary to ensure safety of the child.
o The program must cease visits if the child appears to be traumatized by the visits or when the visitor engages in inappropriate behavior or violates the program rules.

The chief judge in each judicial circuit has responsibility for:
a. the oversight of a program operating under the auspices of the court; and
b. entering into a program agreement with independent programs that are in compliance with minimum standards for providers of supervised contact services. (See the Chapter on Working with the Court.)
The role of the referring judge is to determine when supervised contact is appropriate and to ensure that referrals for supervised contact are comprehensive and specific as to the conditions under which the supervised contact is to occur, including the party responsible for the payment of fees for the supervised contact services. The judge shall also ensure that referrals are appropriate for the level of service available in a program.
The role of a program is to provide a safe, independent site at which supervised contact between the noncustodial parent and child may occur; to ensure that program staff have adequate training to observe the contact; and where appropriate, provide written information about such contact to the court.
The role of a program director/coordinator is to ensure the overall quality of services provided and he/she will also be able to assume roles associated with that of visitation supervisor.
The role of the visitation supervisor is to:
c. maintain independence from parties;
d. ensure that contact between parties proceeds pursuant the visitation agreement and court order;
e. relay relevant information relating to the child’s welfare between the custodial and noncustodial parent at the commencement and conclusion of supervised contact (e.g. special needs, medication, diet, etc.);
f. intervene, where necessary or appropriate, to ensure the welfare of the child or parent;
g. if necessary, facilitate child/parent interaction during the supervised contact;
h. terminate the visit if the child’s safety or that of other parties or staff cannot be maintained;
i. provide constructive feedback, correction, or redirection;
j. document the visits consistent with the program agreement.
Under the Minimum Standards, Programs must have comprehensive written operating policies and procedures, which shall include, at a minimum:
• types of services and manner in which they are provided;
• case acceptance and discharge policies;
• procedures for communication with the court, including how the program and the court will avoid impermissible ex parte communication;
• procedures for providing reports to the court;
• the visitation agreement;
• payment of fees;
• hours of operation that are accessible to use;
• restrictions for transportation of children;
• security measures and emergency protocol and/or procedures;
• grievance procedures;
• policies and procedures regarding release of information;
• employment policies and policies governing the acceptance and discharge of volunteers, including: non-discrimination policies regarding the employee or volunteer’s race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, marital status; and policies that comply with the laws and regulations governing fair employment practices.

The Best Practices require additional operating policies on the following:
• Risk and danger assessments for all referral types;
• Intake, documenting observed behavior;
• Record retention;
• Sexual abuse allegations;
• Photography;
• Gift-giving.
Adult Clients of Supervised Visitation Programs should enter into Visitation Agreements with the program to ensure compliance with program policies and procedures.
A Visitation Agreement is a written agreement between the program and each custodian and visitor including, but not limited to, specific rules, responsibilities, and requirements of the program and the consequences of failing to abide by the same. The visitation agreement shall also advise the clients that no confidential privilege exists as the program’s records, except as provided by the law or order of the court. (Best Practices: Report to the Florida Legislature)
Elements of a Visitation Agreement with Adult Clients
In all cases, visiting parents and the custodian in non-dependency cases must sign an Agreement that states they will comply with the requirements of the Program.
A Program’s Standard Agreement must contain at least the following, but may contain additional information as well.
1. General Program usage information, such as:
• The primary purpose of the visit center
• Hours of operation of the Program and holidays
• A “hold harmless” clause
• Prohibitions on firearms and weapons of any kind.
• Building access information (arrival and departure time)
• Names of all participants authorized to visit
• Specific security protocols and conditions of the Parties; including separation of the parties
• Supervision model/level
• Information regarding records access
• Fee and fine information
• Process of forms, reports, and court correspondence
• Scheduling and cancelling visits, including the Program’s discretion to cancel any visit.
2. Participants must have an understanding and agreement with the Program rules: this understanding and agreement must be documented in a provision within the Agreement.
3. Additional rules must be included in the Agreement as well as commonly relevant issues including at least:
For the visitor:
• Policies regarding suspicion of drug or alcohol use prior to or during visit
• Policies regarding sexual abuse allegation cases
• Policies related to physical space where visit occurs
• Policies regarding smoking, pets, cell phones, and cameras
• Policies on gifts
• A section for special conditions

For both the visitor and custodian:
• Policies designed to keep visual, auditory, and physical separation of the parents
• Policies regarding food
• Policies regarding corporal punishment
• Policies about speaking foreign languages
• Policies about any topics or remarks that should not be discussed in the presence of the child
• A section for special conditions
• Signature and date of visitor, custodian, and program representative

These are not exhaustive lists. They provide a starting point for local programs to craft agreements that reflect local priorities.



About Karen Oehme