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      “It’s Not a Cookie-Cutter Scenario Anymore”: the COVID-19 Pandemic and Transitioning to Virtual Work

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          Abstract

          The COVID-19 pandemic forced human services agencies, including child support agencies, to find ways to continue providing services. Many agencies considered changes to where and how staff work, in addition to new modalities for service provision. This paper explores how five Wisconsin child support agencies approached staff work arrangements and service delivery during the pandemic; challenges and opportunities encountered; changes agencies expect to persist; and implications for policy and practice. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with child support directors and staff in five Wisconsin counties between January and February, 2021. Data were analyzed thematically. Despite limited information and little prior experience working virtually, county agencies rapidly adapted staff work arrangements and service delivery methods to facilitate service continuity. Strategies used by agencies varied across counties, given local directives, resources, and constraints, and as the pandemic evolved. Despite variation, counties contended with a similar array of decision points, including changes to physical spaces, office closures, and staff work locations. Agencies also implemented creative strategies to connect with customers and keep services accessible. Findings suggest that innovative combinations of traditional and newer methods can help agencies maximize reach. Further, the infrastructure and experiences counties gained by working in new ways offer increased flexibility and improved capacity for service continuity in the future. Policymakers could support these efforts by providing guidance related to confidentiality and data security; supporting and facilitating crisis contingency planning; coordinating information exchanges; procuring technology and resources; and advocating for infrastructure, particularly broadband internet.

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          Most cited references34

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          Using thematic analysis in psychology

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            Content analysis and thematic analysis: Implications for conducting a qualitative descriptive study.

            Qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis are two commonly used approaches in data analysis of nursing research, but boundaries between the two have not been clearly specified. In other words, they are being used interchangeably and it seems difficult for the researcher to choose between them. In this respect, this paper describes and discusses the boundaries between qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis and presents implications to improve the consistency between the purpose of related studies and the method of data analyses. This is a discussion paper, comprising an analytical overview and discussion of the definitions, aims, philosophical background, data gathering, and analysis of content analysis and thematic analysis, and addressing their methodological subtleties. It is concluded that in spite of many similarities between the approaches, including cutting across data and searching for patterns and themes, their main difference lies in the opportunity for quantification of data. It means that measuring the frequency of different categories and themes is possible in content analysis with caution as a proxy for significance. © 2013 Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd.
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              Demonstrating Rigor Using Thematic Analysis: A Hybrid Approach of Inductive and Deductive Coding and Theme Development

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                lmklein@wisc.edu
                Journal
                J of Pol Practice & Research
                Journal of Policy Practice and Research
                Springer International Publishing (Cham )
                2662-1517
                1 March 2022
                : 1-41
                Affiliations
                GRID grid.14003.36, ISNI 0000 0001 2167 3675, Institute for Research on Poverty, , University of Wisconsin-Madison, ; 1180 Observatory Drive, WI 53706 Madison, USA
                Author information
                http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9329-2732
                Article
                50
                10.1007/s42972-022-00050-9
                8886194
                34c1f469-9bae-4cea-a1bf-e5aa19b0c394
                © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022

                This article is made available via the PMC Open Access Subset for unrestricted research re-use and secondary analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source. These permissions are granted for the duration of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic.

                History
                : 19 February 2022
                Funding
                Funded by: Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
                Categories
                Original Paper

                human services program operations,child support program,covid-19 pandemic,virtual service delivery,telework arrangements

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