People in the child welfare field, like folks in virtually all occupations, are still trying to figure out exactly what the “new normal” will look like when (and if) COVID-19 fades to a lower-level public health concern. But if a newly released survey of hundreds of child welfare professionals is correct, the virtual home visit is here to stay.
Before the pandemic upended practically everything in early 2020, in-person visits to families’ homes were the main way that professionals kept an eye on how their client families were functioning and how they delivered services and coaching to caregivers. The need for people to keep a safe social distance from one another quickly morphed standard practice into virtual visits in the form of video, supplemented by phone calls, private social media, texts and other safe communication tools.
The results of the September 2020 survey were published last month in a research brief by Jon Korfmacher, Patricia Molloy and Mary Frese of the Erikson Institute’s Graduate School in Development and colleagues at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
It found that more than 6 in 10 home visitors agreed that virtual home visiting is “here to stay” even when the coronavirus fades to more of a background concern. While workers concede that there are some drawbacks to not visiting clients face to face, over 75% of the more than 650 participants said virtual visits will remain a good option for connecting with families post-pandemic.
Based on their experiences, half of the home visitors surveyed agreed that maintaining the pivot to virtual meetings after the pandemic will leave some families to fall behind where they might be if in-home visits remained the primary option. But a healthy 42% said they expected that some families would actually engage better in the virtual-first model.
“The challenge for the field is how to use the innovations that have been developed in the past year to increase access to services while still ensuring that these innovations are used effectively for the families who most need it,” the authors wrote.