CONTACT POLICY: Telephone, Mail, Electronic Communication, and Visitation Policy for Family Members and Community Resources
Hillcrest Educational Centers (HEC) believes that ongoing connection, contact, and visitation must occur between the students in our care and their family members and important community resources. In order to provide the most beneficial treatment, students’ 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/community resources, 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 and from all approved parties as indicated on the student’s contact sheet.
- Student’s incoming and outgoing mail must go through the student’s clinician or designee to help ensure that the proper support is provided to the student reading it, and to be sure that the mail is according to the student’s contact sheet and contact restrictions.
- Mail is not to be read by staff unless invited by the child to do so, or there is documentation authorizing staff to read the student’s mail.
- 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.
- 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 outgoing phone calls on a daily basis.
- Students may call and receive calls when the student or phone is available.
- We encourage families to make calls after school so as not to interrupt their academic instruction. We do recognize that there may be times when a service provider or family may need to speak to them during the school day about an urgent matter, or to help the student cope with a pressing issue.
- There are some times when it may be difficult for a student to get to the phone. These include times such as after bedtime, while off campus on a community trip, when another youth is using the phone, or in the midst of a severe behavioral problem. Efforts should be made for the student to make contact as soon as possible after any 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 the treatment team has considered it necessary.
- When conferencing is necessary, the family member must be aware that their conversation is being conferenced.
- Staff will provide supervision of the student’s behavior, emotional state, voice tone, and volume during all phone calls.
- Staff will dial the phone for all student 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.
- If a student or their family would like special privacy for a phone call, the program will try to make that possible.
- Because of the number of students needing to use the phone and the limited amount of time to make calls, staff may limit the number and length of phone calls made by students. Students and family members are asked, as a general rule, to aim for calls of approximately fifteen minutes, in order to allow others the opportunity to make calls as well.
- Staff, students, and their families are asked to use problem-solving, social/interpersonal, and teamwork skills to negotiate the struggles with sharing phone call times and resources on the campuses.
- Hillcrest’s policy for use of electronics is found under a separate heading. Please refer to the full policy for information about use of electronic on the campus.
- For purposes of supporting contact, clinical staff can work with families to explore a variety of options including Skype and email communication.
- 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 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. Visitation can take a variety of forms including on campus, off campus in the local community, off campus in the home community, and off campus in the home. Visit types are determined based on safety and treatment needs.
- Hillcrest provides travel support once per month for all students who are safe for a visit to their home or home community and have approved family resources to visit.
- People on the student’s sheet may visit on campus. We recognize that families sometimes cannot plan far in advance. We as that whenever possible, the visitors provide 1-2 weeks’ notice to ensure that the student is not off-campus on a trip, to ensure that we can provide any required staff supervision, and to ensure any medical treatments (i.e. medication passes) can be accommodated. If adequate notice is not given, and we cannot provide the needed staffing, we will have to ask the visitor to reschedule the visit. Visits can be scheduled by contacting the clinical staff assigned to the student.
- If a family or visiting resource can’t afford to visit, the Hillcrest agency may be able to help. Ask the student’s clinical staff