Q: Do they get to see their parents? Do the parents come to your house?
A: No. I couldn't say that strong enough. How about absolutely not. Which of course begs the question then, where do they see their parents?
First, let me explain a little bit about visitation. In most cases biological parents are allowed to see their children while they are in foster care during supervised visitations. These visits are regularly mandated by the court and generally involve 60 minutes each week, except in the case of an infant (<12 months) who might get more time, maybe 2 - 60 minute visits. Of course, this setup is different by judge, caseworker, and frankly, case. Typically, the visits are limited to mother and father but occasionally extended family are allowed to participate. Siblings who are not in foster care or who are in foster care in another home are often afforded visits too. In my experience, the courts and CPS go out of their way to make visits happen and it is fairly rare for parents to be denied visits completely. In my experience, visits are only canceled when parents continuously refuse to show for their visitation (in which case the children are brough to the visit location in anticipation of seeing their parents who never show) or when parents rights are terminated. Parents are required to abide by certain rules during visitation including things like avoiding physical discipline and maintaing sobriety during the visit. In two of our cases, parents have had separate visits, meaning 2 visits per week for the kids throughout the case. We've also had one case where the parents had visits for a while but were canceled a few months into it because they were unable to show up regularly. Visits are a vital part of foster care as they maintain family relationships which help in reunification. In the cases where children don't end up going home, visits can be a positive part of setting up new bonds with new families.
Visits most frequently happen at CPS offices, sometimes called child advocacy centers (in Texas, each county is run differently). These offices have visitation rooms setup with toys and space for parents to play with their children. In some cases they have two way mirrors so caseworkers or other supervisors can watch without interfering with the visit while in others they caseworker must sit in the doorway to make sure things are going well. I gather that during these visits the caseworkers/supervisors take notes and watch the interaction with the kids to make sure they are ok and interacting positively.
Occasionally visits might happen at other locations, depending on the case and the situation. For example, if a case is going well a caseworker may agree to allow the parents to have a visit at a park or a fast-food restaurant play area to celebrate the child's birthday. The majority of visits though are done at the offices.
It is important to note though that one of the reasons biological parents don't come to the foster parents house, in typical situations, is that foster parents have the right to anonymity for the safety of their family and the child. In most cases, all involved do their best to keep foster parent information safe, so if biological families have foster parent information (like their last names, addressees, occupations/employers, etc.) it is a very big deal. That being said, there are exceptions. This brings up two more questions we are commonly asked - "How do they get to visits?" and "Do you see their parents?". These will have to wait for another Friday.