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LEGISLATIVE NEWS: Unanimous support in House for unsupervised visitations measure

OLYMPIA—Earlier this evening, the House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 1194, aimed at strengthening parent-child visitation during child welfare proceedings.

“This bill is about ensuring that bonding takes place between children and their parents during visitations, so really, it is about reuniting families,” said Representative Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, who prime-sponsored the legislation.

HB 1194 will ensure that families are provided with the visitation and contact necessary to build their relationship and lessens the effects of parent-child separation. By requiring the first visitation to occur within 72 hours of the child’s removal from the home and requiring that it be in the least restrictive and unsupervised setting, this bill will improve parent-child visitation.

In cases in which the court previously ordered that parent-child visitation be supervised or monitored, such supervision will no longer be necessary at certain stages of child welfare proceedings. However, child safety continues to be the priority and visitation supervision will depend on whether there are any threats or dangers present.

“When children are taken from their home and days or weeks go by without seeing their parents, they often worry that they’ve been abandoned, which is traumatic and can result in trusting issues as they get older. This bill can help prevent this unnecessary stress on kids who are already struggling trying to figure out what’s going to happen to them,” Ortiz-Self added.

Less restrictive and unsupervised visitation within 72 hours of the child’s removal from the parent’s home allows for natural family contact and reduces the trauma of parent-child separation.

HB 1194 now goes to the Senate for further consideration.