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This is a rapid review to answer a commission from the Norwegian Directorate for children, youth and family affairs (Bufdir), received March 30, 2020. The findings in this memo are mainly based on rapid searches in PubMed, PsycINFO, Google, and Google Scholar. Two researchers shared tasks related to study selection and synthesis of results. Although the approach carries risks with missing key evidence or making misguided judgements, we opted for this approach because it was important for the commissioner to receive the results quickly (in two days). The questions were: 1) What are the benefits and drawbacks of electronic communication (e.g. telephone, text, video), compared to in-person meetings, for the follow-up of children and youth in childcare institutions? 2) What is the evidence with respect to facilitating electronic communication in the follow-up of children and youth in childcare institutions? We identified nine observational studies, with approximately 1500 employees and 50 youth, that elucidated the questions.
Electronic communication – such as email, text, video – are commonly used in childcare institutions. Employees are comfortable with such tools and report that there are many more benefits than drawbacks with electronic communication. There are clinical, practical, ethical and legal implications with electronic communication – most of which are positive.
Benefits: Electronic communication in general is efficient, enhances productivity, offers qualitatively good communication and respects youths’ preferences. Video facilitates positive communication, improves relations and trust in the caseworker, and supports clinical follow-up. Written communication is simple, saves time, and eases demands regarding documentation.
Drawbacks: Electronic communication in general triggers some uncertainties with regard to privacy and confidentiality, and some employees feel they are ‘always’ on the job. It may be more difficult to assess the youth and family dynamics (e.g. drug use). Technical difficulties is a source of frustration.
What facilitates electronic communication: It is important to assist the implementation of electronic communication (strategically, technically, organizationally, clinically, legally, etc.). Ensure: policies concerning their use, a set of various forms of electronic communication, training and technical support, safeguards for employees’ professional boundaries.