This week, our In Focus reviews a new Health Management Associates (HMA) report, highlighting hybrid (in-person & virtual visits) as the future of child welfare service delivery. During the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), the federal government waived the requirement for “once every 30 days” in-person visits by caseworkers for children in foster care, allowing these visits to occur virtually. In 2021, Casey Family Programs (CFP) commissioned HMA to evaluate the delivery of virtual child welfare services and outline the implications of the COVID-19 PHE on the child welfare system.
The report “Evaluating the Delivery of Virtual Child Welfare Services” is now available. It summarizes HMA’s findings and elevates the voices of staff in public and private child welfare agencies, and of youth and families with lived experiences, and examines their perspectives on how well virtual services have worked. It also details the implications of the COVID-19 PHE, the response from public child welfare agencies, and offers guidance on a hybrid (part in-person, part virtual) service model, which we believe will continue to be a factor in the future delivery of child welfare services.
As the COVID-19 PHE accelerated the spread and scale of telehealth adoption in health care, we surmised that the experience offered valuable opportunities to learn more about how the health care sector’s adoption of telehealth services could be applied in the child welfare community. While cognizant of the unique considerations for child welfare, this disruption also represents a substantial opportunity to rethink the child welfare system and advance both the use of technology as well as a more prevention- and strengths-based approach to child welfare.
The report highlights innovative approaches in the field, offers questions to frame a jurisdiction’s decision-making process, and provides a tool to facilitate an informed decision on the hybrid model. The report also offers a broader value proposition that outlines policy, practice, workforce, and technology imperatives to develop a hybrid approach to the delivery of child welfare services.