Use Case: NWF Health Network
How to continue child welfare programs amid a pandemic.
The Northwest Florida Health Network (NWF) serves as the network management agency for child welfare and behavioral health services in northwest Florida, overseeing the placement of children in foster and adoptive homes. The agency, with support from its community partners, recruits foster parents and facilitates screening and training processes to ensure the parents can provide stability and support to all children in the program.
NWF Health, and the child welfare system in general, have historically been slow to adopt technology mainly due to the confidential components of the industry and the in-person requirements mandated at the federal and state levels. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, added pressure was put on children, families and welfare agencies. The pandemic created a perfect storm of challenges that all led to underreported cases of child abuse as children were cut off from daily interactives with professionals and teachers. With in-person and face-to-face interactions between children and professionals minimized by stay at home orders, and with home investigations, parent visits, and court appearances at a near standstill, the ability for NWF to ensure the safety and wellbeing of thousands of children became much harder.
Seeing the crisis as an opportunity to modernize a dated process.
NWF turned to telehealth technology that would enable the organization to continue to support child welfare agencies and programs through secure virtual elements added to the process. The organization partnered with Let’s Talk Interactive to deploy telehealth software and hardware solutions to agency partners and customized the workflow to make it fit each of their specific needs. Agency partners were trained on the technology and able to leverage telehealth to hold secure virtual parent visitations, host internal and external training sessions, virtually engage with families, and even attend virtual court hearings.
Telehealth is here to stay.
NWF is experiencing benefits both internally and externally as it embraces virtual care solutions and provides the proper tools to its partners to identify, investigate, and support children that may be victims of maltreatment.
Since implementing telehealth solutions in 2020, NWF reports increased attendance in foster parent training sessions because the process is much more convenient for participants to attend. The organization continues to leverage telehealth for virtual court hearings which has resulted in increased parent attendance due to the ease of logging on through their phone or computer to connect directly with the judge. Parents and families also engage in child appointments and visitation more often.
“While there will never be a replacement for in-person meetings with families, we certainly do not want telehealth to go away. Our team is leveraging telehealth in every aspect of our organization--from training and certifications, visitation services, court hearings, placement staffing and more. Not only has it benefited us internally, but most importantly, children in need are continuing to get placed with amazing families which is by far the most important result we could ask for.”