Abstract: Ã ã¢â€Šâ‚¬Ã...’There Is a Fear of Being Homeãƒâ¢Ã¢â€Šâ‚¬Ã¯Â¿Â½: The Role of Home Visitation and Addressing Intimate Partner Violence during COVID-19 (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Ã ã¢â€Šâ‚¬Ã...’There Is a Fear of Being Homeãƒâ¢Ã¢â€Šâ‚¬Ã¯Â¿Â½: The Role of Home Visitation and Addressing Intimate Partner Violence during COVID-19

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Gina Fedock, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Carly Murray, MSW, Research Assistant, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Celina Doria, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: During the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) are estimated to have increased over 8 percent following stay-at-home orders. Socioeconomic stressors such as job loss, closure of childcare facilities, health issues, and imposed isolation have left families vulnerable to increased rates of IPV. As essential providers, home visitors across the United States have continued working with families to provide crucial support and resources to families. However, the pandemic has forced home visitors to shift policies and practices related to family visitation, necessitating changes such as remote visitation. Due to the novel circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is unknown how these practice shifts have impacted caregivers’ disclosures of IPV and the supports available to home visitors to respond to issues of IPV. In order to explore these issues, the current study examines: (1) The dynamics for caregivers engaged in home visiting services who care experiencing IPV; (2) How caregivers disclose IPV; (3) How home visitors respond to IPV disclosures; and (4) What resources are needed for home visitors and families during COVID-19 and beyond.

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.