In the social services field, the home visit is an established and necessary practice. According to research from the National Association of Social Workers, American social workers spend more than half of their time conducting these in-person check-ins - and for good reason. In these moments, case managers can assess the progress of children in out-of-home care and look for red flags that may indicate problems to come.
Of course, social workers cannot simply stride into a home, look around and leave. They must take time to notice the details. If you're looking to improve your skills in this area, review these strategies for conducting an effective home visit:
Connect with the families
Ultimately, your relationship with the out-of-home caregivers will determine your success. With this in mind, make time to really connect with them and develop a rapport, The New Social Worker advised. Additionally, be on your best behavior every time you come by. Extending small courtesies like identifying yourself during each visit will go a long way and make caregivers feel more relaxed and open, which makes it easier to address more serious topics.
Before you arrive, be sure to review your case files thoroughly and refresh yourself on key facts. The out-of-home caregivers you visit will appreciate that you've taken the time to educate yourself on their unique situations.
Connect with the kids
You must also do your due diligence when researching the children on your caseload. Speak with the kids you serve and learn in-depth information about their interests - you can connect over these topics during home visits. Plus, when you're having those hard conversations, these lighter themes can come in handy when things get too intense.
From a logistics perspective, it's always best to bring along something for your kids to do as you meet with their caregivers. This way, you can offer them a nice treat when you enter and keep them occupied.
Personal SafetyMake sure someone else knows the specific address where you are going. We suggest posting a whiteboard in your office with a list of places you will be visiting each day. Your agency may require that you utilize a digital sign in/out method. Since other clients will likely be in the building, you should record the neighborhood or street where you will be, rather than writing down the client name on a whiteboard. Sometimes, upon your first visit, it is advisable to drive by the actual address to assess the surroundings, thus helping you choose the safest and most accessible place to park a vehicle. Additionally, this “drive by” will provide an opportunity to determine if there are hazards such as unrestrained animals, blocked entrances (and exits), and loiterers
When possible, review agency and criminal history of your client prior to your visit. When in question, consult with your supervisor regarding the accompaniment of law enforcement on your visit.
Always be aware of potential entrances and exits to the home. It is appropriate to ask the client the names of those who enter the home during your visit. Maintain a working cell phone or radio in your pocket or within your reach, and always be prepared to remove yourself from emotionally charged situations as needed. When possible, sit in a location where you can observe the door. It is also appropriate to ask the client to restrain pets during your visit.
Want more social services training resources? ProSolutions offers a variety of online CDA classes and social service courses, including "Conducting Purposeful Visits - Social Services Course Package." Contact us today to learn more.