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A preliminary view of the use of telehealth in a child welfare agency during the pandemic

ABSTRACT Introduction The child welfare system’s method of service delivery shifted abruptly during the pandemic to a telehealth modality. The perceived impact of this change upon service delivery is largely unknown, however. The purpose of this study was to describe how a large child welfare agency shifted to telehealth delivery, including investigating barriers and innovative strategies that were undertaken to resolve obstacles and enhance engagement and the provision of services. Method In September, 2020, direct service providers, supervisors and clinic directors at a large, Southeastern child welfare agency completed a survey that tapped into the perceived impact of telehealth on service delivery, and barriers and benefits of telehealth delivery. Twenty-six (n = 26) individuals completed the survey. Results Over half of participants reported an improvement in service delivery through the use of telehealth, and most saw it as being beneficial to both families and staff. Few participants believed that services were negatively impeded by telehealth.The main barrier to telehealth delivery was technology access and navigation (both on the part of families and staff). Discussion Telehealth was largely perceived as a facilitator to child welfare service delivery; implications and use of remote platforms are discussed.

Family poverty, family adversity, neglect, and entry into out-of-home care

ABSTRACT The critique that child welfare services (CWS) are primarily focused on neglect cases resulting from poverty is longstanding and reemerging from discussions about how to address America’s racial history and structural oppression which begets poverty. Understanding how poverty and CWS involvement operate requires testing relationships between poverty and other factors influencing placement. Drawing on NSCAW II, we identify families (n = 445) investigated for neglect, with children younger than 15, and remaining home upon investigation at the study’s baseline. This study uniquely allows for distinguishing the contribution of poverty and family adversities on foster care placements among neglecting families. Families were followed for 36 months, to observe placements into out-of-home care. Poverty levels were not strongly related to subsequent placement. Children in families with high levels of adversity – especially arrests and domestic violence – were most likely to be placed into foster care. Employment at initial contact was associated with less later foster care placement even when income levels were generally low. The findings add to the evidence that placement into foster care may most significantly result from an accumulation of adversities. Intervention that might help reduce foster care placements for neglected children who begin receiving services at home are considered.