Key Factor #1: Controlling For Bias
By Susan Griffin
California Family Code 3200.5 and California Rules of Court 5.20 establish standards for professional providers of supervised visitation (PPSV). A search engine will readily find both. Consumers in need of these services need to understand the law.
One of the requirements of the PPSV is following all aspects of the law. Controlling for bias is one of those requirements.
Bias is a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. In family law cases with an order for supervised visitation, it is a PPSV who is prejudiced in favor of or against one party, the Petitioner, or the Respondent.
The only way to control for bias is to create a process that treats both parties equally from the very beginning.
Hannah’s House conducts a screening with both parties prior to any face-to-face meetings. The screening may be done over the phone or via the website. The consumer chooses.
The screening is exactly the same for every person who completes it. The only differences occur because of different facts in each case. Each party on every case is given an equal opportunity to provide the necessary information.
The intake and orientation is the same for every person who completes it. Parents attend an in-person meeting. They will be in a group that includes both residential parents and visiting parents, but two parties to the same case will not participate in the same intake and orientation meeting.
Hannah’s House provides supervised visitation and supervised exchanges. The variations in the intake process relate to the difference in those services.
The goal of the intake, orientation, and legal review process is to learn about the case, ensure both parties understand their rights and responsibilities, and to figure out how to keep stress down for the children.
Children are required to attend a Turtle Tour orientation. This provides the child with the opportunity to meet the Human and the Animal Staff, and to explore the family rooms, art and music room, and the snack shop!
The Turtle Tour is required so that children know in advance where they will be coming and what the place and the people are like. This helps control for bias because staff is assured the child is familiar with the setting so staff can just focus on the transitions from one parent to another.
100% of contact between Staff and clients is documented. Email, phone logs, and activity reports are completed at the time of contact.
All activity reports are reviewed weekly by a Quality Assurance Team in a regular QA meeting. The purpose of the review is to ensure accuracy and completeness in the documentation, and to identify any client or staff discrepancies that require intervention beyond that which occurred during service delivery.
The QA team consists of the Assistant Executive Director, Program Director, Program Manager, Program Coordinator – Scheduling, Program Coordinator – Reports and Record Keeping, and any PPSV who wants to attend.
Clients and staff members with discrepancies that occurred during service delivery during the previous week will be contacted by a staff person to address the discrepancy. Typically this contact occurs within 24-48 hours following the meeting.
There is a Quality Control function built into the system to ensure that the discrepancy contacts are made, completed, and documented for each client and staff person identified.
Hannah’s House is a forensic social service agency where everything that is said and done can potentially become part of legal proceeding. We take that responsibility seriously and the first step in ensuring forensic accuracy in our service delivery is controlling for bias.