Chronicle of Social Change | Home Visitors Left to Check on Parents from Afar
According to Ronald E. Brown, CEO of the Children’s Bureau of Southern California, which supports 40,000 children and parents with services such as home visits, parenting classes, counseling, foster care and adoption, the shift to virtual home visits makes it harder to get a complete picture of a family’s circumstances.
“It’s about context,” he said. “We don’t treat a person, we treat an environment. We look at things collectively because people don’t live in isolation.”
As soon as home visitors drive up to a residence, they start to take note of the neighborhood in which a family lives. Inside of a home, they search for signs of everything — from whether a new mother has the baby blues to whether a child has bruises or cringes during interactions with certain household members. They also observe whether new people have moved into the home, former family members have returned, or if some family members, such as a suddenly unemployed parent, is spending much more time in the residence.
With videoconferencing alone, these sorts of details may get lost, Brown fears, and could lead to fewer formal reports of abuse and neglect.
“Observational qualities are critical and important, particularly as mandated reporters,” he said.
Virtual check-ins with families may not be ideal, but Brown said the Children’s Bureau is making them work. Clients are keeping their videoconferencing appointments, and many of them enjoy the flexibility these online visits afford them.
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