Visit Coaching Today

Over the past 12 years, Dr. Marty Beyer and Dr. S. Auguste Elliott have provided training for Visit/Family Time Coaches in 22 states, many of which have programs in multiple counties, some in public child welfare agencies and some by contract. Programs have been inventive, met challenges to implementation, and tracked their effectiveness. In a 2017 survey, 21 Visit/Family Time Coaching programs provided details about how coaching has evolved. Most Visit/Family Time Coaching programs are:

• Coaching families in visits usually once or twice week, sometimes more
• Coaching visits in community settings, including family homes
• Maintaining fidelity to key elements of Visit Coaching:
• a separate visit plan meeting before coaching begins
• the umbrella drawing focusing on children’s needs
• the pre-visit and post-visit meetings with families

Survey respondents described many achievements of their visit coaches, including:

“Our Family Time Coaches are amazing at supporting parents in learning how to understand what their children need and how to meet those needs.”

“When parents receive positive input and feedback from the coach, they become eager to build on the skills they already have.”

“We meet parents ‘where they are at.’ Coaches take a non-judgmental stance and parents become remarkably vulnerable and willing to change.”

“Coaches help parents regain control and feel a sense of pride and motivation during visits with their children. It is encouraging to them when they see that someone believes in them.”

“We see change in families: parents meeting their children’s needs, increasing visits throughout the week, and making the transition to overnight visits.”

“We are most proud of seeing the impact Visit Coaching has on families being able to spend time together in the community.”

“We now use Visit Coaching as the standard for all our cases, and implement it at the beginning of the case in almost all cases.”

“Our successes have been supporting parents to feel more confident and effective as parents and allowing them to express feelings of guilt, loss and shame. Validating them has been the single most valuable tool we have in forming a trusting relationship between the coach and the parent.”

Challenges Faced by Visit Coaching Programs

“We have a lot of cases where the child lives far away. With a great deal of collaboration, between coaches, DCF and foster parents, we have been able to work out transportation.”

“Transportation of children often interferes with pre- and post-visit meetings with parents and we have had to get creative.”

“When a parent has several children, attending to each child simultaneously and equally can be a struggle, especially when the children are at different developmental stages and their needs differ.”

“We continue to struggle with caseworker buy-in. We have to help caseworkers understand that Visit Coaching can have a direct impact on decreasing risk. Caseworkers may view the Visit Coaches as ‘overlooking the negative’ when the parent is not completing other necessary services. It is essential that caseworkers observe monthly and provide meaningful feedback to parents so that they understand what is expected from them.”

“We have shared parenting meetings, but at first parents may not want to meet foster parents, foster parents may not want to meet parents, and kin have conflicts with parents.”

“The successes we have experienced with the families receiving Visit Coaching exceeds the struggles we have experienced. We see families who arrive with a sense of hopelessness and feeling defeated by their circumstances and the child welfare system. Visit Coaching has turned that around for them. We have witnessed parents who become encouraged, motivated and confident to do more for their families. They really seem empowered and supported by their visit coach to ask questions of their caseworker and foster/kinship caregiver without feeling that they will be reprimanded for it. We have also experienced parents who come to an understanding that reunification with their child is not likely, but are grateful to have experienced positive interactions and created memories with their children through Visit Coaching.”

Measuring Outcomes of Visit Coaching

“More than half of children were either returned home or headed toward reunification (unsupervised visits, etc.) when discharged within the first 6 months of Visit Coaching. Approximately 65% of children were either returned home or headed toward reunification when discharged within the first 9 months; 70% within the first 12 months. Following a “successful” discharge 100% of the children remained at home 3 months post discharge and 90% 6 months post discharge.

Family Time Coaching is a relational model, and parent change can be promoted through an enhanced parent/child relationship and partnering with the coach and social worker in the context of that parent/child interaction. When there was progress, whether in the location, time, quality of family time, parent/child relationship, or case plan, parents felt empowered. When there was no movement, parents grew discouraged, disempowered and devalued the coaching and foster care process. This research suggests that coaches and social workers must explore ways to create movement within the context of risk. For social workers, this could mean breaking down case plan requirements into achievable objectives within specific time frames. For coaches, this may be working with Shared Parenting teams and overcoming challenges within Family Time to allow parents and parent/child relationships to grow and to be recognized as growing.

Voices of Families in Visit Coaching

“My coach went out of her way to help me. It was never awkward. It was absolutely 100% about making sure we got what we needed. She helped me to know that people make mistakes. She gave me hopes and reassurances...always a positive attitude...would let me know if I should do something different...She changed my whole life. She became my friend...she let me talk, cry, whatever I needed. I was losing faith in everything. I could call her and she would make time to let me vent when I needed to.”

“My coach gives me constructive criticism which is awesome! It’s working a whole lot better now...I like things straightforward and honest. My coach points out what I’m doing. She gives examples. She points out what I did wrong and a better way to handle it...Now things have moved forward. It is nice to have someone on board who’s really helping.”

“It’s really going well working with a coach. She’s very good about things I need to work on to do better with the girls. She gives me hints and secrets and it always seems to work out better. It’s gotten better over time for the simple reason that I was one of those parents who felt I didn’t need it, but over time I have learnt.”

“Things changed pretty quickly. Within two months we went from one visit a week to three to having my son home. It’s been very helpful to have a coach, being a new mom and so young. It’s helpful to have someone to ask questions of and to have her support. She was great and taught me a lot of tricks. She’s an experienced Mom. It would be beneficial for all people to have. I felt blessed to have a coach.”

“We go to Family Time and hold him and feed and change him and talk to him. Our coach talks to me about how I can help him, how I will make changes. It’s changing because we are more open. We talk about what we did, what we could have done, our attitudes, and moving forward. I want my coach to know that I’m a great father and I’m there to support my family.”

“I have more patience with them now. My husband even notices and tells me. My coach taught me the skills I needed. Now that I’ve gone through it and had a great coach, it was a good experience. I feel I’m the one in control now.”

“She would pick me up and we would drive to the town where my kids are. She would get up at 5 a.m. to do that so I could take my kids to school. She has gotten me through a lot. She praises and criticizes me. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything and I like that. She’s really awesome.”

“I absolutely love our Family Time. I feel lucky because we get three hours twice a week. Family Time is so comforting. I am her mom and that (is) how they make me feel. My coach will say things like, ‘It’s great for her to hear your voice.’ She talks to us about anything and everything. She writes a lot down, asks what we want to do, talks with us and also kind of just let’s us be. She is not hovering, she does give input and she just lets us be parents. She is taking photos for a development book and she prints them and gives us the prints.”


Elliott, S.A. (2015). Easter Seals Vermont Family Time Coaching Evaluation Report: Parent
Interviews. Berlin, VT: Author. Available by contacting