Child Welfare Services Response to COVID-19: Addressing Face-to-Face Contacts

J Child Fam Stud. 2021 Jun 16:1-13. doi: 10.1007/s10826-021-02000-7. Online ahead of print.


During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, child welfare case managers faced contradictions in their responsibility to make regular in-person contact with children and families to promote safety, permanency, and well-being while following public health directives to avoid social contact in order to curb COVID-19 infections. In response, federal guidance was issued regarding foster parenting and the use of technology to maintain mandated contacts with children in foster care. States had to make decisions about how to handle other contact types including child adoption cases. This study reviewed documentation of state child welfare agency practices regarding face-to-face contact between case managers and child-welfare involved families between March 2020 and May 2020. Using a point-in-time search to obtain publicly accessible documents related to caseworker face-to-face contact and COVID-19, data was located for 49 states and the District of Columbia (n = 50).

Documents were analyzed in NVIVO 12 using document analysis. Within the context of face-to-face interactions by child welfare case managers, documents were analyzed in six themes based on the types of services provided to children and families: (1) investigations, (2) family preservation, (3) family team meetings, (4) foster care, (5) adoption, and (6) general child welfare. State decisions about how to manage these contacts varied. In several states case managers were directed to document both virtual and in-person contacts during this time as face-to-face; which may impact future evaluations of child welfare systems during COVID-19. Findings highlight a range of strategies used by state child welfare systems. By reviewing previous practice and hearing what other states are doing, child welfare service agencies have the potential to evaluate appropriately, strengthen their plans and address disparate impacts.

PMID:34155430 | PMC:PMC8208611 | DOI:10.1007/s10826-021-02000-7