Caseworkers talk challenges of helping abused and neglected kids virtually

Jacksonville, FLa. — Covid-19 has changed the way we live our lives and do our jobs, and there’s growing concern among the child welfare community.

Lindsay Gee with Florida Support Service of North Florida, Inc. has worked in child welfare and as a case worker for 15 years.

Currently, Gee has about 20 kids’ cases she’s working on, and now, it’s almost completely virtual.

“Doing virtual visits versus face-to-face visits, that bonding experience isn’t the same,” Gee said. The crucial bonding experience, gone.

Gee says COVID-19 has also made it difficult for case workers to connect kids with community providers for services they need. All of this, because of virtual visits.

According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, there are currently 859 kids in Duval County in out-of-home care, 338 in Clay, and 81 in Nassau.

“It makes it difficult to really assess what’s going on in the home doing it virtually because you’re not able to use all of your senses, so you can’t smell, you can really only see what’s in that box,” Gee added.

Gee explains that caseworkers look at a child’s environment, making sure their home is clean and free of hazards, and ensuring that their caregivers are providing the care they need. But more importantly, Gee says, she looks for bruises and other signs of injury or neglect in children.

All of that, now much harder to detect since visits have gone virtual.

“You can miss those kinds of things when everything is virtual, and it makes it a little more stressful knowing that some of the kids aren’t going to school – they’re doing online learning – so they’re not as visible in the community,” Gee said.

Gee says if a caseworker has serious concerns with a case, they can still make an effort to go out to their children’s home in person, socially distancing and wearing masks, of course.

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