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Professional Visitation Monitors – Stranger In My House

Stranger in the house: For your own good?

What do we really know about the professionals who are trained to be “supervised visitation monitors?” Divorce is exhausting as it is with kids involved but to worry about the training and expertise of the monitors is the icing on an already bitter cake! For those of us who’ve gone through divorce and dragging kids through the uncomfortable process, you know how hard it is and it usually brings out the worst on both sides.

Now, throw in the supervised visitation monitor who sits nearby to observe visits. He or She is there charged with making sure the child is safe.

But did you know professional supervised visitation monitors have little oversight and limited training? So it brings the question to light, are the children any safer with the monitors present? These are people who sometimes write reports that could affect visitation or custody in the future. Yet they are not required to have a degree or advanced training in child development or pathology.

According to a San Diego Union Tribune article back in 2006, under an article titled “Supervised visitation monitors face little oversight, it highlights problems then that are still in the forefront in 2018. Patricia Chavez-Fallon- the Director of the Superior Court’s Family Court Services in San Diego County said people who want to be paid monitors submit documentation to the court showing they have attended a training class and meet the other state standards, which amount to requiring that monitors are 21 or older and free of any legal trouble for ten years. Candidates do not have to show that they retained any of the information, just that they attended a course for 24 hours that covers the basics of performing the job as a monitor. The state standards do not even require a proper background check that is mandatory for daycare workers to make sure the candidates don’t have a history of abusing or molesting children. There is even a Superior Court disclaimer that the court “does not select, evaluate, endorse or supervise” those on the monitor list and that they “have not been screened” regarding law enforcement, children’s services bureau or personal history.

So how does the training work? One example is Hannah’s House at Real Solutions Center for Children. Officials there said if someone completes the 40 hour training course the company offers at a cost of 600 to 800 dollars, Hannah’s House is required to give them a certificate that they received training regardless of how much information they “retain” or what the trainer’s impression of the person is. This is just ONE summary of training.

There are some volunteer visitation monitors that are sometimes family members or friends… but this article is focusing on the paid monitors and there is a WIDE range of how they get paid. They generally charge anywhere between $16.50 an hour to more than $100 an hour.

So when is it ordered?

Supervised visitation is ordered by superior court judges to allow parents in high conflict or high risk situations access to their children in a safe and supervised environment. Supervised visitation is used to protect children from potentially dangerous situations while allowing parents access and providing support for the parent/child relationship. Since he monitor is often called in to homes where there are concerns about the children being in a high risk situation, relevant training with a demonstrated proficiency in dealing with people with substance abuse issues or mental health concerns seems all the more imperative.

Sounds like an important role

There are pages and pages of monitor companies listed on the San Diego County Court site but if you look at the fine print, there’s a disclaimer that states the programs are “not” affiliated with the court and each program is independently responsible for compliance with any and all applicable legal requirements. It goes on to say the court does not endorse, evaluate, supervise or monitor these programs.

However, some counties like Riverside, won’t put professional supervisors on their county court list UNLESS they have done the Trustline Background Check.

The Trustline Background Check is California’s registry of in-home child care providers, tutors, in home counselors and some child care staff who have passed a background screening. It was created by the California Legislature in 1987 and is a powerful resource for parents.

What’s the training like?

So let’s get into what do our professional paid monitors need in order to be considered “professional.” There are some mandatory requirements, including having to be at least 21, must be CPR/FA Certified and free of any legal trouble for the previous ten years.

Here are some other specifics:

  • Have no record of driving under the influence (DUI) conviction within the last five years.
  • Not have been on probation or parole for the last 10 years
  • Have proof of automobile insurance if transporting a child.
  • Have no restraining orders within the last ten years.
  • Requires professional providers to have received “24” hours of training on a number of topics including among others, child abuse reporting laws, developmental needs of children, cultural sensitivity, and legal obligations and responsibilities of a provider and further, requires professional providers to sign a declaration or any Judicial Council form specifying that they meet the training and qualifications of a provider.

If parents have concerns about the actions of a monitor or their competency level, there is no governing body that oversees the monitors or that investigates to see if a monitor has acted improperly. In most counties it is unclear where parents can even lodge complaints about a professional monitor. Leaving parents to resort to personally suing the monitor as highlighted in the case of Moores vs Konia. The professional supervisor in the case Monika Konia says more training and oversight in the case is definitely needed, but didn’t want to comment directly in the lawsuit with former San Diego Padre’s owner, Jennifer Moores. “I can speak in general but not about the particulars of the case. I have been a visitation monitor for a number of years. I have built a reputation by getting referrals and recommendations. I enjoy helping families with my professional services. I’ve had all the required training. It requires 24 hours of training and I’ve had 40. “

Just as disturbing as it is for parents to be limited in how they can voice concerns about negligent monitors, there is also no governing body that tracks to see if monitors are convicted of a disqualifying crime after they complete their initial training.

There’s no state-wide uniform training

One of the problems is that state standards don’t have a uniform curriculum for teaching monitors. While specific subject matters much be discussed, it is unclear if monitors are even getting similar information from training company to training company. Even more importantly, it is unclear if training is effective in giving potential monitors the information they need to properly do the job. State and local officials don’t certify or authorize specific agencies to do the training so currently there is no valid way to know. The curriculum is not required to be developed or taught by a psychologist or anyone with a relevant educational background. So it is unclear how beneficial the training actually is to enabling the monitors to provide a safe environment for children.

Earlier in the summer, California Legislators passed ACR 117. The resolution says that more statewide conformity in the training of supervised visitation providers is needed. This paves the way for stricter standards to be put in place but there’s nothing specific to date.

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