By Rich Bowlen, Former Director, Child & Adult Protective Services
The Struggle to Adapt to the ‘New Normal’
Over the past few months, social service agencies and service providers have once again risen to the challenge to change the way they operate.
As we respond to our current environment, keeping children/youth, families, caregivers, and the elderly at the center of all we do will continue to be the most important gauge against which we measure our success.
Shutdowns, quarantines, remote operations, and telework all forced many social workers, counselors, therapists, and other professionals to adapt the way they deliver services and work with clients.
Overnight, tools that were often viewed as a novelty, or nice to have, quickly became a necessity to communicate and stay connected. For many, this meant scrambling to modify workflows and fit the new lifestyle of digital communication into the new normal. Everything from one-on-one supervision to helping siblings stay in touch had to live up to the same, if not better, standard of communication that had been set prior to this transformation.
As we continue to serve the most vulnerable among us, I found myself asking, “Why isn’t video chat, conferencing, and connecting a bigger part of how we serve today?”
The Silver Lining
For me, nothing can ever replace the genuine sense of connecting with someone, like sitting beside a struggling parent or distraught child. However, when caseloads soar and challenges facing our clients become even more complex, getting one hour of face-to-face time with each member of every case every two weeks, or in some cases once a month, doesn’t cut it for me.
I’m interested in being as connected as possible. I’m interested in having a full appreciation of how those who may be losing hope or drowning in deep depression are getting through the day.
So why not spontaneously, and as needs arise, connect through video? As difficult as it is to adapt to the new style of working, the new problems we face open opportunities for new solutions and for us to do things in ways we’d never thought possible before, but always wished we could.
At first it was challenging, but we figured out how to make sure we were approaching the use of virtual visits and other forms of chat from the perspective of those we serve and support.
What I first encountered was that many of the existing options for connecting via video required me to schedule the activity, to which I thought, “Wow, it would be great if I could have a strict, regimented schedule for every child and caregiver on specific days at a certain time. That’d be great!”
Thankfully, with so many choices out there today, and the ability to rewrite stoic and outdated policies or procedures, we have the ability to make those we serve feel more connected than ever. In fact, many colleagues have shared some amazingly creative approaches they’ve discovered to advance our practice, regardless of the challenges we might be facing.
As social workers, we pride ourselves on our desire to meet people where they are. Using digital means of communicating should be no different.
We must be adamant that how we connect and the way we connect promotes the development of positive and meaningful relationships. Every effort we make to do the most good must clearly demonstrate our interest to connect those who need help with those who can provide it.
Through the use of video, we have the ability to provide an encouraging face, more often than once or twice per month.
We can use the challenges of today to embrace opportunities, to assure those we care about that their face is seen, that their voice is heard, and that there is continued hope for a better tomorrow.
Several colleagues have shared how they are using video to enhance their connections, whether from colleague to colleague or with clients. Here are a few of my favorites:
Virtual Meetings with Clients
- Without having to drive to meetings, spending more time in conversation and having more conversations in a day
- Safety—Keeping myself safe, keeping clients and families safe, and mitigating risk to other community members
- Taking advantage of the moment—Chatting now versus scheduling time later
- Engaging in more frequent facetime, especially with younger children
- Increasing sibling contacts
- Being consistent with other services, such as telemedicine and telebehavioral health, that many clients already receive
- Capturing everyone’s voice and promoting the inclusion of youth
- Connecting needs with supports, such as parent mentors and other non-traditional supports
- Maintaining typical face-to-face time
- Having caregivers and biological parents interact more often
Virtual Meetings with Team Members
- Instantly looping someone into a conversation
- Having spontaneous meetings, not meetings scheduled days in advance
- Kinship caregivers and foster parents are team members, which increases their involvement in ongoing conversations
- Checking in on one another as a way of supporting team members
- No longer struggling to find conference rooms for family team meetings, permanency roundtables, youth permanency roundtables, or case staffings
- Having best practice meetings with colleagues from multiple disciplines that only happened at an annual conference before
Video Calling Designed for Multi-Disciplinary Teams
Video calling is now a crucial part of social services. This means that social workers, providers, counselors, and clients need a solution built specifically for them.
Caretivity is a secure, HIPAA-compliant app that empowers wraparound and multi-disciplinary teams to strengthen engagement, bolster communication, and achieve results more quickly.
It’s the easiest tool available, currently being used by clients, professionals, and natural supports of any level of tech-savviness.
It also does so much more than just video calling…
We’d love to talk with you about how Caretivity can help your organization.
Interested in Caretivity?
Contact us if you have questions about how Caretivity can help your team or organization better collaborate and coordinate services.