This descriptive study sought to explore how child welfare agencies and community partner organizations experienced and adapted service provision for immigrant children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were completed with 31 child welfare agency practitioners and community partners in 11 states who work with immigrant clients or on immigration related policies within the child welfare sector. Data were coded and analyzed using a thematic analysis approach.
Results: Findings documented ongoing immigration-related fears in accessing services due to the anti-immigrant climate as well as increased scarcity of resources and basic needs stressors among immigrants served by the child welfare community during the pandemic. Results also identified child welfare systemic and structural barriers to accessing needed case supports for immigrants, in addition to innovative practice and policy adaptations to meet immigrant needs during the pandemic.
COVID-19 created overwhelming challenges for already overburdened immigrant families at risk of or involved with the child welfare system. Child welfare agencies should foster collaborations with immigrant-serving community organizations who can share information and resources about COVID-19, immigration enforcement, and vaccine distribution. Agencies should adopt policies for tele-visiting that support transnational participation in virtual family visits and court hearings to create more equitable opportunities for reunification and permanency.