The first round of federal Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSRs) found more frequent and higher-quality caseworker visits helped agencies do a better job of assessing risk of harm, assessing the need for alternative permanency options, identifying and providing needed services, and engaging children and parents in planning for their futures (NCSL, 2006).
This is cause for celebration, for it suggests an important connection between the frequency and quality of caseworker visits and the positive outcomes we seek.
It is also a wake-up call, because as a system we don’t always do such a great job with visits. For example, in one national study 28% of parents receiving in-home services reported they had not seen a caseworker since the initial investigation; those who were being visited experienced long gaps between visits (Chapman, et al., 2003).
Why? Sometimes caseloads are so complex and so high that workers feel they have time to make only superficial contacts, or none at all. Daunting amounts of paperwork, staff turnover, and lack of resources can make it hard to prioritize visits.
Yet when we give visits short shrift, we do so to the detriment of families and children. We can do better.
To help you and your agency increase your focus on visits, this issue of Practice Notes offers some specific suggestions about working with parents and infants exposed to substances, enhancing monthly visits with children in out-of-home care, and responding to children when they ask “unanswerable” questions.
Contents of this Issue