Telephone, Mail and Visitation Policy for Family Members
Hillcrest Educational Centers (HEC) believes that ongoing connection, contact, and visitation must occur between the students in our care and their family members (or substitute family members) and that in order to provide the most beneficial treatment, student’s families must be collaborative partners with HEC and the student themselves in the treatment process.
Ongoing contact with family members of students in support of treatment and permanency goals must be prioritized. Any restrictions on contacts with family members, or type of contact, must be prescribed by the student’s guardian, the court, and/or by the HEC treatment team or treatment policy, due only to therapeutic or safety concern. When restricted by HEC, the rationale and specific restriction must be discussed with the student’s guardian, documented in the student’s treatment plan (CTP) and the student’s contact sheet, and the family member(s) affected by the restriction must be notified. If it is believed that an immediate safety or treatment concern exists, an immediate restriction may be made to address it. The rational and specific restriction must then be clearly documented on a student contact sheet, and any resulting restriction of future contact must be documented according to this policy. No restrictions are allowed for the purpose of punishment or creating motivation.
- Students may send and receive mail to all approved parties as indicated on the student’s contact sheet.
- Campus secretaries are to record all incoming and outgoing mail from/to students, including the student’s name, and whom the mail is from and/or going to.
- Students incoming and outgoing mail must go through the student’s clinician or designee to help ensure that the proper support is provided the student upon reading it, and to be sure that the mail is according to the student’s contact sheet and contact restrictions for that child.
- Students must open all mail in the eyesight of staff to help ensure that no contraband is enclosed.
- Boxes and packages, or envelopes that seem to have items enclosed in them will be required to be opened in the presence of staff and may be searched by staff to ensure that no contraband items are enclosed.
- Mail is not to be read by staff unless invited by the child to do so, or there is documentation of a restriction to support doing so.
- Telephone Calls
- Students may call and receive calls from all approved parties as indicated on the student’s contact sheet.
- Students must have the opportunity to make a minimum of three outgoing phone calls per week.
- Campuses may continue to encourage family members to call the campus on a calling schedule in order to provide opportunity for all members to have access.
- Staff will continue to dial all outgoing calls and ask for the receiving party for the student.
- Students may call and receive calls at all times other than when the student or phone is unavailable. Unavailability includes times when the student is participating in required program activities, is far from a phone, other users are on the phone or need the phone, during campus quiet or bedtime, and/or due to the student’s severe behavioral problems. Efforts should be made for the student to make contact as soon as possible after a period of unavailability.
- Student phone calls may not be conferenced (listening to both sides) or monitored (listening to one side) unless invited to by the student and the family member to do so, or there is specific documentation of the restriction to support doing so.
- When conferencing (listening to both sides) is the restriction, the family member must be aware that their conversation is being conferenced.
- Staff will continue to provide supervision of the student’s behavior, emotional state, voice tone, and volume during all phone calls.
- Staff will document all phone contact including the family member contacted, the length of the call, and any observations of note (from above) on a student telephone contact sheet.
- When the student and their family member specifically request privacy, arrangements are to be made for the student to have contact with that party in as private a setting as possible where staff eye contact with the student can still occur. This may be modified for our ASD students who require additional supervision which may require that staff remain within eyesight and or arm’s reach to ensure the safety of that particular child.
- Due to the number of students needing to use the phone and the limited amount of time to make calls, program staff may limit the number and length of phone calls made by students. Students and family members are asked, as a general rule, to limit their telephone contact to no more than one a day and to approximately fifteen minutes, in order to allow others the opportunity to make calls as well.
- Staff, students, and their families are encouraged to utilize problem-solving, social/interpersonal, and team work skills to negotiate the struggles inherent in sharing phone call times and resources on the campuses.
- Upon initial intake (and as necessary following intra-HEC transfer), the student, approved family members, and the treatment team should determine a visitation plan for the student with family members for the first 6 weeks (through the diagnostic period) of placement.
- Visitation during this time is usually on-campus and supervised as a part of the assessment and acclimation process for students and family members to campus rules, expectations and procedures.
- Visitation planning should continue at subsequent CTP and Treatment Team Meetings, and should be planned in a minimum of 6-week periods to ensure that the needs of the student, the family member(s), and the program are being met.
- HEC provides travel for all students who are determined safe to do so and have approved family resources to visit, 6 times per year (usually on an every other month schedule).
- Given the level of emotional and behavioral difficulty resulting in student’s placement at HEC, certain behavioral and treatment milestones, according to the campus’s treatment and visitation policies, must be met before students will be determined to be safe for off campus and/or overnight visits.
- The specific format of all visits (on campus/off campus, supervised/unsupervised, day home visit/overnight/extended home visit) is determined by the treatment team (including the family), and based on the treatment progress and needs, safety and risk factors, and the recent emotional/behavioral and psychiatric status of the student and the family.
- Approved family resources may visit the student if the campus can accommodate the visit. An active visitation plan detailing the type and length of visit, prior campus notification (24 hours or more is appreciated), student availability, and where applicable, supervision and/or interpretation services must be in place or able to be accessed in order for the visit to be approved. All visits must occur during regular campus awake hours.
- All on campus visits must be planned for by the campus in advance of the family member’s arrival to ensure that a space is identified, and snacks, restrooms, and activities are available for the visitors.
- Family members with financial and transportation obstacles to visiting the campus may be eligible for some assistance through the agency’s Family Support Fund. Requests for support to help family members get to campus should be made through the campus Lead Clinician and agency Clinical Director.
- Family support funds will be prioritized utilizing the family support decision tree (prioritizing reunification efforts first, followed by treatment related needs).
- Due to limited availability of family resources, if necessary, HEC will prioritize student’s reunifying or primary family member.
- Every effort should be made to accommodate additional court ordered or referral source requests for student transports with reimbursement from the referring agency.