Program Policies

SCHEDULING POLICY:

Q.

When do I become eligible for exchange visits?

Q.

When do I become eligible for exchange visits?

A.

It depends on your case, your lawyer, and the judges involved in your case. Our program can only provide a place for visits and exchanges to take place. We cannot get involved with the particulars of custody and access.

Q.

Am I allowed to stay inside the access centre even though my court order is for exchange visits?

Q.

Am I allowed to stay inside the access centre even though my court order is for exchange visits?

A.

No. Only those who have court orders for supervised visits can stay inside the access centre. We don’t have enough space to accommodate exchange visits at our centres.

Q.

What if there is a restraining order against me or the other party?

Q.

What if there is a restraining order against me or the other party?

A.

Our program schedules the arrival and departure of both parties at different times, 15 minutes apart from each other. The non-custodial party must arrive first (15 minutes before the custodial party) and the custodial party must arrive on time. 

If the Court order states that parties should not have any direct and/or indirect contact with the child or each other then our program requires that the Order be varied to state, “Parties should not have any direct contact and may have indirect contact only for the purpose of supervised access.”

Q.

Can I bring gifts or toys for my child?

Q.

Can I bring gifts or toys for my child?

A.

Yes, unless the Court order or a letter from your lawyer states otherwise and as long as they are age appropriate, non-custodial parties are allowed to bring gifts or toys for their children.

Q.

Can I send money, notes, or gifts for my ex-partner with my children?

Q.

Can I send money, notes, or gifts for my ex-partner with my children?

A.

No. Our program discourages any kind of contact between parties at the centre. Our program should not be used as messenger between parties. With regards to sending money or child support, please get help from your legal counsel.

Q.

Can the custodial and non-custodial parties meet to help the child during a visit? 

Q.

Can the custodial and non-custodial parties meet to help the child during a visit?

A.

No, it is against our program mandate. Our program discourages contact between parties while at the centre. If a child requires assistance our staff are trained to offer support.

Q.

Can both parties arrive or depart together from the access centre?

Q.

Can both parties arrive or depart together from the access centre?

A.

No. Parties must arrive and depart separately. The non-custodial party must always arrive 15 minutes before the starting time of a visit and must wait for the custodial party to bring the child.

The custodial party must always bring the child to the centre on time. At the end of a supervised visit, the custodial party must leave immediately with the child. The non-custodial party must wait inside the centre for 15 minutes to allow them time to leave the area. 

For an exchange visit, the non-custodial party must arrive 15 minutes early and the custodial party must arrive on time. The non-custodial party must then leave immediately with the child. The custodial party must wait inside the centre for 15 minutes to allow the non-custodial party and the child to leave the area. At the end of the exchange visit, the custodial party must arrive 15 minutes early for the pick up and wait for the non-custodial party to return the child. Once the child has been returned, the custodial party must leave immediately with the child. The non-custodial party must wait for 15 minutes to allow the custodial party and the child to leave the area.

Q.

Who must arrive first for a supervised visit?

Q.

Who must arrive first for a supervised visit?

A.

The non-custodial party must arrive 15 minutes before the custodial party and wait 15 minutes before leaving at the end of the visit.

Q: Who must leave first at the end of each visit?

A: The custodial party.

Q: What happens if a party arrives under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

A: The visit will be cancelled immediately. The incident will be documented in the observation reports and the party will be warned that repeated behaviour of this nature will affect their access to the services. If the affected party arrives under the influence of alcohol a second time, the program will suspend one visit. If the behaviour is repeated again, then services will be terminated permanently.

Q: What happens if a client misses three consecutive visits? 

A: All future visits will be cancelled. Parties will be notified in writing. Their space will be given to a new client.

Q: What if I cancel my visit? 

A: If you are the custodial party, you must make up the visit the following week. If you are the non-custodial party, you lose that scheduled visit and will not be offered a make-up visit.

Q: What if one party fails to show up for a visit?

A: Program staff will contact the party to find out the reason. The other party will be notified. All communication will be documented.

Q.

If the Court order says that the police should enforce the order, will the staff call the police?

Q.

If the Court order says that the police should enforce the order, will the staff call the police?

A.

No. Our program is not responsible for enforcing Court order. The program is designed only to facilitate visits and exchanges.

Q.

What if the Court order is for weekly visits and there is no availability?

Q.

What if the Court order is for weekly visits and there is no availability?

A.

If the non-custodial party or his lawyer agrees, then visits can be arranged to take place on a bi -weekly basis until space becomes available for weekly visits.

Q.

Can I have access when it is Father’s Day or Mother’s Day?

Q.

Can I have access when it is Father’s Day or Mother’s Day?

A.

Our program has no involvement to arrange visits for particular holidays or occasions. Such issues must be addressed between the parties who can consult with their lawyers.

Q.

What items are not allowed inside the access centre?

Q.

What items are not allowed inside the access centre?

A.

Items that are not allowed include but are not limited to: nuts and peanut products, nail polish, perfume, cell phones, video cameras, tape recorders, laptop/computers, cassette players, DVDs, weapons, sharp objects, inappropriate toys such as toy guns, grooming and make-up items, nail cutters, matches, video games, movies, and other items deemed inappropriate by the Centre. Cameras are allowed, but only if they're disposable and arrangements with our staff have been made in advance.  Guests must fill out the appropriate forms and application with our program prior to attending any visits.

Q.

What if after some time I go back to court and my supervised visits change to exchange visits?

Q.

What if after some time I go back to court and my supervised visits change to exchange visits?

A.

You can use our program for exchanges, as well. All you need to do is to provide our program with your new court order and to sign a new contract with our program that specifies the frequency, duration, and conditions of the exchange visit.

Q.

Who can use supervised access centres?

Q.

Who can use supervised access centres?

A.

Families can use supervised access centres if:

  • they have a court order for supervised visits and exchanges;

  • there are concerns about the safety of the child and/or the parent;

  • the non-custodial parent has a drug or alcohol problem or a psychiatric disability;

  • there has been a lengthy separation between the parent and child; or

  • there is a risk of abduction

Q.

How do supervised access centres ensure the safety of families, staff and volunteers?

Q.

How do supervised access centres ensure the safety of families, staff and volunteers?

A.

Safety measures include:

  • staggered drop off and pick up hours;

  • staff or volunteers who accompany children at all times during visits;

  • a close relationship with the local police;

  • security checks for volunteers and staff;

  • Panic buttons are available at each site

Q.

How do I get access to centre services?

Q.

How do I get access to centre services?

A.

You and your lawyer, if you are represented, must contact the supervised access centre directly. The centre will require a copy of your Court order for supervised access. Both parties will be asked to participate in separate interviews at the centre before service is offered. Each parent will be asked to sign an agreement with the centre, including release of information forms. Payment of fees will also be discussed at this time. The children may be invited to meet the centre staff and to take a tour of the centre before or on the day of the first visit.

Q.

Is there a limit on the period of time a family can use a supervised access centre?

Q.

Is there a limit on the period of time a family can use a supervised access centre?

A.

No. In some cases, families require supervised access over a long, or unspecified, period of time (e.g., cases where mental health concerns or violence are issues).

INFORMATION SHARING POLICY:

Q.

If one party asks for anything in writing from the program, will the other party be notified?

Q.

If one party asks for anything in writing from the program, will the other party be notified?

A.

Yes, if one party requests a letter, the other party will be provided with a copy of that letter at no cost. If one party requests copies of the observation reports, the program staff will call the other party to find out whether he or she is interested in receiving copies of those reports as well. If the party is interested, then he or she will be asked to pay the same fee as the other

Q.

Can APCO call my lawyer and give her/him an update about my file?

Q.

Can APCO call my lawyer and give her/him an update about my file?

A.

No. Our program does not release information over the phone or by fax. Requests must be submitted in writing and we will provide your lawyer with such information in writing, as long as your lawyer agrees to pay the required fee.

Q.

Will the other party have access to my personal information?

Q.

Will the other party have access to my personal information?

A.

No. Personal information such as your address and phone number will not be shared with the other party.

Q.

Who can have access to my personal information?

Q.

Who can have access to my personal information?

A.

The police, Children’s Aid Societies, Office of the Children's Lawyer, and government agencies will have access to your information.

PICTURE TAKING POLICY:

Q.

Can I take pictures of my children during a supervised visit?

Q.

Can I take pictures of my children during a supervised visit?

A.

Yes. Unless the court order, a letter from a lawyer states otherwise or the child’s safety needs is an issue.  Our program will allow the non-custodial party to take pictures, but only if arranged in advance with our staff and only in areas designated by staff. Please note that our program will not allow any party to include other families or children in their pictures. Note also that video cameras and any other recording devices are not allowed.

HEALTH AND MEDICAL POLICY:

Q.

What if the custodial party calls in sick or cannot bring the child to a visit?

Q.

What if the custodial party calls in sick or cannot bring the child to a visit?

A.

The custodial party must inform our office of a cancellation in advance of a scheduled visit. The custodial party must give enough notice so that we can notify the other party of the cancellation. If a custodial party fails to inform the centre of a cancellation, he or she will be marked as a “no show” in the observation report.

Q.

What if my child gets sick during a supervised visit?

Q.

What if my child gets sick during a supervised visit?

A.

The program staff will contact the custodial party for instructions. If the custodial party is not available and if the child’s condition appears to be serious, program staff will take the child to the hospital.

Q.

What if my child needs medication during visits?

Q.

What if my child needs medication during visits?

A.

If medication is needed during visits, written consent from the custodial party is required giving permission to the non-custodial party to administer medication. Access centre staff are not responsible for administering any medication.

Q.

Can the custodial party stay inside the access centre while visitation is going on?

Q.

Can the custodial party stay inside the access centre while visitation is going on?

A.

No. The program will not allow any custodial party to remain inside the access centre during the non-custodial party’s visit. However, the Program Director may authorize an exception, given reasonable grounds and legal documents for doing so.

Q.

What if my child requires breastfeeding?

Q.

What if my child requires breastfeeding?

A.

A written request must be submitted to the Program Director. Upon approval of your request, our program staff will make special arrangements to meet the child’s needs.

Q.

Can the custodial party send somebody with the child to stay during a visit?

Q.

Can the custodial party send somebody with the child to stay during a visit?

A.

No. The custodial party is not allowed to send guests or family members to stay with the child during his or her visit with the non-custodial party.

Q.

What if my child needs a change of diapers during the visit?

Q.

What if my child needs a change of diapers during the visit?

A.

It is the responsibility of the non-custodial party to meet the child’s toilet needs. Our program staff will only supervise the process.

Q.

What if a child gets sick during an exchange visit?

Q.

What if a child gets sick during an exchange visit?

A.

It is the responsibility of the non-custodial party to do what is best for the child and to follow the Court order. Our program is not responsible for anything that occurs outside our access centre.

Q.

Can the non-custodial party be given the child’s Health Card number?

Q.

Can the non-custodial party be given the child’s Health Card number?

A.

Our program does not make such arrangements. Any sharing of this type of information must either be part of the court order or must be resolved by the parties and their lawyers.

Q.

What if my child is allergic to any food or non-food items??

Q.

What if my child is allergic to any food or non-food items??

A.

APCO will ensure to put the following measures in place:

  • Upon registration, custodial parties are asked to supply information if their child has a life-threatening allergy.

  • The custodial party must present a doctor’s note indicating the child’s medical condition.

  • If your child needs an EpiPen it must be present at each visit.

  • If the EpiPen needs to be administered, a consent letter is needed for the non-custodial party to administer the EpiPen (Access centre staff are not responsible for administering any medication).

  • APCO will provide a separate room for children with anaphylactic allergies.

  • Staff will remind the parent and child(ren) to sanitize their hands prior to each visit.

  • If the child’s allergies are confirmed, no food will be allowed in the visiting room. If food or snacks are desired, the custodial party must provide them.

  • If the child shows signs of an allergic reaction during the visit, the custodial party will be contacted for instructions.

  • If the custodial party is not available and the condition appears to be serious, program staff will contact the ambulance and take the child to the hospital

TERMINATION OR SUSPENSION POLICY:

Q.

What if a client is disrespectful towards staff members, other clients, or their children?

Q.

What if a client is disrespectful towards staff members, other clients, or their children?

A.

Our program has a “zero tolerance” policy with respect to abusive or inappropriate behaviour. Visits will be suspended if parties do not cooperate and follow program policies, with no chance for reinstatement.

Q.

What if the child refuses to leave with a non-custodial party for an exchange visit?

Q.

What if the child refuses to leave with a non-custodial party for an exchange visit?

A.

Our program’s mandate is to facilitate visits, not to enforce Court orders. If children refuse to leave the centre with a non-custodial party for an exchange visit, the centre will not force the child to go. Custodial parties are asked to bring the child for three consecutive visits in order for the staff to complete observation reports, which will document what happened at each visit. 

CANCELLATION POLICY:

Q.

What is the cancellation policy?

A.

Custodial parties can cancel a visit if a child is sick or due to the extreme weather conditions. In such situations, the custodial party is required to provide program staff with reasonable notice. If a custodial party cancels a visit, the visit must be made up. If a non-custodial party cancels a visit, make-up visits will not be offered. If a non-custodial party cancels three visits in a row, visits will be suspended. However, the Program Director may authorize an exception, given reasonable grounds and legal documents for doing so.  In situations where you or your child suffer from any type of contagious or transmittable infections or communicable diseases, please consult your physician or Public Health to ensure your attendance does not put the health and safety of other children at risk.

Q.

What if the custodial party goes on vacation?

Q.

What if the custodial party goes on vacation?

A.

Our program must be notified in writing of vacation schedules that will impact visits. All scheduled visits will be made up once the custodial party returns from vacation.

Q.

What if the non-custodial party goes on vacation?

Q.

What if the non-custodial party goes on vacation?

A.

The non-custodial party will lose the visits, and make-up visits will not be offered.

Q.

What if I arrive late for my visit?

Q.

What if I arrive late for my visit?

A.

Parties are expected to wait for 15 minutes past their scheduled time. If the non-custodial party arrives late, the time will not be made up. If the custodial party arrives late, time must be made up.

Q.

What if I cannot attend visits at the times specified by the court order because of my job?

Q.

What if I cannot attend visits at the times specified by the court order because of my job?

A.

Both parties must provide the program with a letter from their lawyer confirming their inability to attend visits at a certain time and must agree on an alternative day and time for visits.

SMOKING POLICY:

Q.

Can I smoke inside the access centre?

Q.

Can I smoke inside the access centre?

A.

No. Our access centres are smoke-free zones. You may not smoke inside, nor in or around the access centres’ playgrounds.

FOOD AND SNACK POLICY:

Q.

Can I bring lunch or snacks for me and my children?

Q.

Can I bring lunch or snacks for me and my children?

A.

Yes, non-custodial parties are allowed to bring food, unless the court orders states otherwise. The party must take the child’s dietary needs into consideration, including any allergies the child may have and the Centre’s request that clients not bring any nuts to the access centres. Please note that our program will not allow any party to share food, snack or drink with other families or children.

Q.

Can I leave the access centre to buy a hot lunch for me and my children?

Q.

Can I leave the access centre to buy a hot lunch for me and my children?

A.

No. You may bring a hot lunch in with you, but once you are inside the access centre, you are not allowed to leave until the end of the visit.

Q.

Can we share our food and snacks with other children during my visit?

Q.

Can we share our food and snacks with other children during my visit?

A.

No. Please do not share your food and snacks with other children, as they may have different dietary requirements or restrictions.

PICK UP AND DROP OFF POLICY:

Q.

What if I send somebody else to pick up and drop off my child?

Q.

What if I send somebody else to pick up and drop off my child?

A.

The following points apply and should be taken into consideration:

  • Our program will not release child to anyone except in situations where health, employment and safety is an issue

  • The program will not release child to anyone unless it is court ordered, a confirmation letter is received by lawyer and both parties agree to the 3rd party being used for pick up and drop off

  • All 3rd parties must sign an authorization agreement form with the program staff authorizing pick up or drop off of a child

  • All 3rd parties must submit a picture and documents confirming their home address

Q.

What if someone else drops off my child without the program staff’s awareness?

Q.

What if someone else drops off my child without the program staff’s awareness?

A.

Prior arrangements must be made with the program staff. If alternate arrangements are not made and someone else drops off the child, the party will be given a written warning and copies will be faxed to lawyers and all parties involved in access.

Q.

What if the custodial party fails to pick up the child? 

Q.

What if the custodial party fails to pick up the child? 

A.

A Children’s Aid Society will be contacted.

Q.

What will happen if the non-custodial party fails to return the child on time? at the end of an exchange visit?

Q.

What will happen if the non-custodial party fails to return the child on time? at the end of an exchange visit?

A.

Our program will first contact the non-custodial party and the two emergency contacts. Thirty minutes past the scheduled time for the drop off, if we are still unable to locate the non-custodial party, then the program will contact the police.

GUEST ATTENDING VISIT POLICY :

Q.

Can I bring parents, family members, or friends to a supervised visit? 

Q.

Can I bring parents, family members, or friends to a supervised visit? 

A.

You may, as long as it is part of the Court order.

Q.

Can I celebrate my child’s birthday during a supervised visit and bring guests?

Q.

Can I celebrate my child’s birthday during a supervised visit and bring guests?

A.

You may certainly celebrate your child’s birthday inside the centre but you are not allowed to bring any guests or visitors who are not included in the court order or agreement.

Q.

Can I bring relatives or friends inside the access centre while picking up or dropping off my children?

Q.

Can I bring relatives or friends inside the access centre while picking up or dropping off my children?

A.

No, generally not. You should come alone when picking up your children for an exchange visit or dropping them off afterwards. However, in special circumstances, exceptions can be made. Arrangements must be made with the Program Director in advance.

VISIT MAKE UP POLICY:

Q.

What if the program is closed during long weekends or other holidays?

Q.

What if the program is closed during long weekends or other holidays?

A.

Our program will not offer make-up visits for visits that are missed because the access centres are closed for holidays. However, exceptions will be made for clients who visit their children only once per month. Parties who have weekly or bi-weekly visits must resolve their issues with the help of their lawyers.

COMPLAINT PROCEDURE

Q.

What if I have a complaint regarding access centre staff or the program?

Q.

What if I have a complaint regarding access centre staff or the program?

A.

In addition to the weekly, bi-weekly or monthly communication, our open-door policy encourages you to discuss any questions, problems, concerns or issues that you have with our program staff. All site concerns and comments should be addressed with the centre supervisor first. If your concerns cannot be resolved with the centre supervisor, then you are advised to contact the Program Manager at 416-304-1221. Every effort will be made to address the issues that are raised. Failing resolution with the Program Manager, the matter will be referred to the Executive Director. Failing resolution with the Executive Director, the matter will be referred to a committee of the Board of Directors. If the matter is not resolved then you are advised to contact the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario.

We are here to assist and support you in your visits and to ensure that the concerns of both the children and parents are addressed.

THANK YOU!
Access for Parents and Children in Ontario

CAS INVOLVEMENT POLICY

Q.

What is the CAS involvement policy?

Q.

What is the CAS involvement policy?

A.

  1. Access for Parents and Children in Ontario (APCO) is unable to accept any
    case where a child is in the care and c ustody of a Children sAid Soc iety (CAS)
    whether by written agreement or a Child Protection Court Order.

  2. APCO is unable to accept any case where a child is in the care of a custodial
    parent, but is subject to a Child Protection Court Order such as a Supervision
    Order. The exception may be that if either parent has a child who is not
    included in the Supervision Order, then that child may continue with the APCO
    program or may be eligible for a new application to APCO.

  3. APCO is unable to give priority to cases referred by a CAS in which a relative
    has been granted final custody with an attached order for supervised access to
    one or both parents. These referrals will be placed on the waiting list similar to
    any other referral.

  4. APCO will temporarily suspend access during the course of a CAS
    investigation that involves the non-custodial parent. If the case is closed upon
    completion of the investigation and confirmation is received from the CAS
    indicating there is no safety concern involving the non-custodial parent and
    his/her child, then access will resume immediately.

  5. APCO will decide on a case by case basis, whether to continue supervised
    access with a non-custodial parent during the course of a CAS investigation
    involving the custodial parent. If the CAS continues to be involved with the
    custodial parent beyond the investigative stage, APCO will decide, again, on a
    case by case basis, whether to continue access with the non-custodial parent.

  6. The above policy statements apply to supervised visits and supervised
    exchanges.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

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