Methods: This exploratory study involved semi-structured, individual interviews with a sample of home visitors working with families across Illinois. Participants were recruited through a network of home visitors. A total of 28 home visitors agreed to participate in this study. They ranged in terms of years of experience (from less than 1 year to over 25 years) and worked across the state, including in Chicago and in very rural areas. All interviews were conducted through video calls, recorded, and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was conducted with the research team and included open and fixed coding in iterative processes to identify themes and patterns in the data.
Results: Overall, the impact of COVID-19 on marginalized families has caused intensified needs, such as fear of ICE raids while being forced to stay at home, difficulty connecting due to lack of technology resources, and further food and economic insecurity compounded by limited transportation. Families’ experiences of IPV during the initial months of COVID-19 was varied, with verbal abuse being the most common form of abuse, and home visitors described pandemic-specific dynamics and abuse tactics for some families. The unique circumstances of the pandemic necessitated creative practices by home visitors, particularly around issues of IPV inquiry, disclosure, response, and resource provision. A major gap in service delivery is the lack of follow-up with families who are experiencing IPV, especially those who experience emotional and economic abuse over time.
Conclusions and Implications: Home visitors work directly with marginalized families experiencing IPV; however, they vary in their levels of IPV-related education, comfort with detection and responding to disclosures, and knowledge of resources. Implications for practice include improved access to educational resources for home visitors, clarified policies and practices, and increased support for families around issues of IPV, material resources, and a range of services.