Child Welfare Service Adaptations during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Using a socio-ecological framework, this qualitative study provides an understanding of the context of child welfare workers’ worries and concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This study is part of a larger mixed-methods research project that included qualitative interviews with child welfare workers to explore approaches to child welfare services and child safety interventions for newcomer families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The main question that frames this study is how Ontario workers and managers managed their worries and concerns about the pandemic. The participants we interviewed talked about their personal safety and navigating modified work during the pandemic. The fear of getting sick with COVID-19 when visiting multiple families resulted in stress and anxiety for some workers. For others, work modifications resulting from the pandemic created challenges in terms of childcare, increased isolation due to working remotely, case assignments/planning, and blurred family/work boundaries. Child welfare workers in Ontario felt excluded from the provincial designation “essential service workers” during the pandemic, making them feel that their work was unacknowledged by the government. Despite this lack of a designation, we centralize the issue of essential work in our analysis to underscore the challenges faced by child welfare workers and the potential supports that can be provided in and out of their work settings as the pandemic continues to unfold.