Abstract: (WITHDRAWN) Rural Child Welfare Case Managers Use of Information and Communication Technology (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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208P (WITHDRAWN) Rural Child Welfare Case Managers Use of Information and Communication Technology

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Christopher Constantino, PhD, Assistant Professor, Florida State University
Randolph Karen, PhD, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Melissa Gross, PhD, Professor, Florida State University, FL
Don Latham, PhD, Professor, Florida State University, FL
Background and Purpose: Little is known about child welfare case managers’ use of information and communication technology (ICT) to complete their work. Less is known about ICT use among case mangers who work in rural areas. This study seeks a more complete understanding of ICT use among rural child welfare case managers. The study’s research questions are: what ICT is being used, where is it being used, what is it being used for, how useful is it, and how comfortable are the case managers in using it.

Methods: To answer the research questions, this study used the experience sampling method (ESM). The ESM asks participants to complete surveys during their everyday lives, collecting data in the moment that an experience occurs. This removes the influence of memory allowing for more valid data than that obtained through interview and diary methods. It also allows contextual information to be collected. Ten child welfare case managers from one rural community in the southeastern US participated in this study. Before starting the ESM portion of the study, participants provided demographic information and data about which types of ICT they were comfortable with. The ESM survey contained 12 questions about what ICT the participants last used, what they used it for, where they used it, how useful it was, and how comfortable they were using it. The ESM survey was administered to participants through the PACO phone application (pacoapp.com). They were prompted to complete a survey five random times a day for one week.

Results: Participants reported using a wide variety of ICT. However, their level of comfort varied depending on the type of tool. For instance, workers reported more comfort in using voice-based tools (e.g., Facetime [M=3.9 out of 4]) than video-conferencing tools (e.g., Zoom [M=1.7 out of 4]). Workers reported using email, text messaging, or smartphone almost exclusively in their day-to-day lives. The ICT use occurred most frequently at workers’ desks, at other locations in their office buildings, and in their own homes. Workers reported that they were most likely to use ICT to communicate with a colleague within their agency or with their supervisor. Results of the linear mixed modeling analyses revealed that only telephone use predicted worker perceptions of usefulness. Comfort level was predicted by the type of task engaged in (e.g., interaction with colleagues outside of the agency) and setting (e.g., car).

Conclusions and Implications: This study demonstrates the usefulness of ESM in capturing the nuances of technology use in the day-to-day work lives of child welfare case managers in a rural setting. One important implication for practice and policy was that participants reported using primarily email, text, and telephone. This highlights the need for agencies to explore the use of other types of ICT (e.g., video conferencing) that may improve efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. Future research could compare and contrast the experience of these rural-based case managers with those in suburban and rural settings. ESM is recommended for researchers studying the lived experiences of real-world events.