Home visits have been one of the social worker’s most effective tools from the very beginning. Examining the home provides information you can’t get in any other way.
Decades ago, social workers called themselves “friendly visitors” when they left the office to visit a client’s house. Their job was to get to know the family, to understand how its members interacted with one another, and to help the family overcome any problems it might be having.
Why Do We Need To Make Home Visits?
“An Adult Protective Services (APS) investigation is initiated by a visit to the vulnerable adult who is the alleged victim at the adult’s home or other place of residence.” (340:5-5-2. Policy)
If you don’t visit the client’s home, you may never discover problems that have gone unvoiced. There are many reasons someone might fail to tell you about a problem.
- Failure to See the Problem
When you make the home visit, you’re there to accomplish a specific goal that works toward the DHS Mission Statement of strengthening families and helping them become self-sufficient.
One of the many differences between DHS eligibility programs and APS is that it is not always the case that the client has requested our assistance. Social service needs easily arise, and since the client has not been in to report them, the home visit is one way those needs can be identified.
Getting Ready for the Home Visit
In general, it’s rarely a good idea to just jump in your car and head out for the field. Your time is limited, and you are obligated to make the best use of it as you can, both for your own benefit and that of those families you serve. While it may appear you’ve got a simple task ahead of you, and it’s not necessary to do a lot of preparation, taking a few moments to sort things out and examine your reasons for making the home visit will eliminate repeated visits as well as wasted time.
The following checklist may assist you:
- As part of the APS procedures and the investigative process, review and staff the referral with your supervisor.
- Have a plan.
- Gather your forms.
- List the client’s name, address and phone number on your ADM-57 for the day.
- Purses and other valuables should be placed in your trunk before you leave for the field.
- If you’re making multiple home visits, plan them so to economize traveling.
The home visit is one of your best opportunities to get to know the client you’re serving, and adequate preparation in the beginning will increase your likelihood of accomplishing that task.
Making the Home Visit
There are several things you need to keep in mind as you make the journey to the client’s home.
Here’s a quick checklist:
- Write your odometer reading on the ADM-57.
- Be professional.
- Don’t rush things.
- What if they’re not home?
- When you’re in the home, do not go exploring without the client’s permission.
- Before leaving, review what has been learned and what needs to be done next.
- When you leave the client’s home, go somewhere else to record your notes from the visit.
Use the time you are in the client’s home effectively.
Your objective is to assist the family. If you observe something that requires explanation, ask the questions necessary to resolve the issue.
Once again, the DHS Mission Statement says we’re here to help families become safer, healthier, more independent and more productive. Keep that mission in mind when you’re in the client’s home.
Any situation endangering the safety or health of the family may be critical enough to require immediate attention on your part.
Who Is At Risk?
When we first started this section on home visits, we noted the home visit’s importance in the process of getting to know a client’s needs.
While it is true many of the clients you’ll serve have unspoken needs, you need to be able to discern what it is that is placing the client at risk. Sometimes it is a lifestyle choice or another person’s influence or lack or care that is placing the client at risk and then there is the capacity of the client which is always a factor.
You will have to make judgment calls based on your own experiences, and you’ll discover you may have different concepts of what constitutes an acceptable or unacceptable situation when you discuss situations with your colleagues.
Though some of the situations you’ll encounter are going to be easily labeled as “at risk” or “not at risk,” you’ll find others fall into a gray area in which making a certain decision of risk factors will be like navigating through a thick fog.
You are in the business of providing protective and preventive services. In other words, you should know a client’s situation well enough to identify problem areas and assist in providing solutions to them whether they be minor or critical. Some client situations will require less intervention on your part than others. Some of the clients on your caseload will require no intervention at all. Once again, this points out the importance of your getting to know the client situation as well as possible. Assessing the client’s strengths and weaknesses requires information, and much of that information will only be available to you after you make a home visit.
Elderly and/or Disabled Individuals At Risk
As mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to include a little extra time in your home visit for those who may be isolated from others. The elderly and/or disabled often find themselves unable to travel easily, and they may become dependent upon people coming to see them for social interaction. The time you spend with them may accomplish more good than you realize. Don’t treat it frivolously, and don’t squirm in your seat.
Many elderly and/or disabled individuals would benefit greatly from community resources designed specifically to meet their needs, but they may be unaware of them or unwilling to participate. Consider making appropriate referrals and providing encouragement to those who might be reluctant to take part in groups or activities that could help them become more active.
One third of your caseload will likely include elderly, disabled, and other vulnerable adults who are at risk and alleged to have abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation. Approximately two thirds of your clients will be suffering from self-neglect. If you do not make home visits, you may not recognize the client’s need for help. And policy does require “An Adult Protective Services (APS) investigation is initiated by a visit to the vulnerable adult who is the alleged victim at the adult’s home or other place of residence.”
(340:5-5-2. Initiating investigations)
The Toll-Free Hotline number for Child Abuse/Neglect and Adult Abuse/Neglect is