We will continue to publish separate news pieces about the virus and its impact on youth services, and we will also aggregate our coverage on this running thread. Check here for regular news briefs, links to our stories and coverage of the field from other media outlets.
We want to hear from the field and continue to update this thread! Share your thoughts and observations with us over email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Social Media Campaign Launched to Promote Extending the Age of Foster Care
April 3, 11:51 p.m.
A social media campaign has popped up this week to promote the extension of services to older foster youth during the pandemic.
#UpChafee, a reference to the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood, is an effort by child welfare advocates to boost two key federal expenditures on housing for older foster youths.
“Congress has acted swiftly to send relief to our medical and emergency responders,” said Celeste Bodner, executive director of FosterClub, in a statement announcing the campaign. “We’re already hearing of the significant impact on the foster care system and the vulnerable children it protects. We urge Congress to respond quickly to forestall a child welfare crisis on top of the existing COVID crisis.”
The advocacy groups behind #UpChafee are recommending two particular actions to lengthen foster care for the moment:
- Raising the appropriation for the Chafee Independent Living Program from $143 million to $500 million. That program offers transitional living options for current and former foster youth up to the age of 23 (though most states still have the program capped at 21).
- Increasing the age threshold for Title IV-E – the multi-billion dollar federal entitlement for child welfare services – from 21 up to 22, essentially delaying an end to federal funds for foster care during the pandemic.
The upper age of IV-E was raised from 18 to 21 back in 2008 by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which offered states the option to extend care beyond 18 with a federal match. Almost all states have some form of extended foster care now, and about 30 draw IV-E funds for it.
Illinois this week became the first state to put a moratorium on letting youth age out of foster care, meaning that those turning 21 would not see an end to their housing and support amidst a pandemic, related isolation measures, and looming recession. California child welfare leaders have asked the state’s Department of Social Services to do the same.
Last week, the U.S. Children’s Bureau told The Chronicle of Social Change that it “does not have the authority to waive” statutes limiting the program to age 21, unless Congress is willing to write that into coronavirus legislation.
“Without targeted support, youth who reach adulthood in foster care during the COVID-19 crisis are at high risk for homelessness, lack of income, instability and illness,” said Jenny Pokempner, senior attorney for the Juvenile Law Center, in the statement. “We should provide young people extra support during this time and we need to reach as many youth as possible.”
Lack of Shelter Beds in New York Leaves LGBTQ Youth At Risk During Pandemic
April 2, 6:14 p.m.
With shelter doors closing and beds full, LGBTQ youth and providers in New York City are left to face coronavirus on their own.
Calls to Release Youth from Lockups Due to Virus Threat Grow Nationwide
April 1, 8:49 p.m.
As the pandemic worsened, and calls to release youth in lockup grew louder, Pennsylvania juvenile justice advocates went to court to try and force the issue. “We are in dire circumstances,” said Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel for the Juvenile Law Center.
What’s in The Stimulus Package for Youth and Family Services?
April 1, 12:59 p.m.
Last week, President Trump signed a $2 trillion bill aimed at shoring up businesses and workers as America weathers a pandemic that could be followed by a long recession. The Chronicle breaks down what the plan includes that will directly affect child welfare and family service providers around the country. Read More.
Illinois Agrees to Moratorium on Aging Out of Foster Care
March 31, 4:37 p.m.
Last week, the Illinois chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America asked the state’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to let young people stay in care during the coronavirus pandemic and associated state shutdown. Today, the agency agreed to that request.
“Thank you Governor Pritzker and DCFS for hearing the alumni concerns and protecting our young people,” the group said, in announcing the news on its Facebook page.
DCFS will permit any foster youth between 18 and 21 to continue on in care, living in the same place, until June. Services for those young people will also continue into June, and for those who do wish to emancipate, the state will temporarily waive certain requirements for housing and transition funds.
California child welfare advocates have sought a similar promise from the state’s Department of Social Services.
States will have to foot the full bill for extended services past age 21 unless Congressional action provides a temporary change. In 2008, the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act offered states the option of extending foster care to from 18 to 21 with federal support through the Title IV-E entitlement.
The U.S. Children’s Bureau, which oversees most federal funding for child welfare, said in an email to The Chronicle that it “does not have the authority to waive” statutes limiting the program to age 21, unless Congress is willing to write that into coronavirus legislation.
Layoffs During Pandemic Retraumatize Former Foster Youth Let Go from Major California Advocacy Organization
March 31, 10:01 a.m.
Current and former foster youths working for California Youth Connection were gearing up to help others through a tough time during the coronavirus shutdown. Then the layoffs came.
Days After Initiating Layoffs and Restructure, California Youth Connection Executive Director Resigns
March 31, 11:51 p.m.
Last week, The Chronicle reported that Haydée Cuza had laid-off much of the staff at the well-known advocacy group California Youth Connection, just as unemployment claims hit record highs in the state. Just days after an emergency board meeting was held to discuss her actions, Cuza resigned.
Texas Group Asks State Agency to Protect Parents Rights During Pandemic
March 30, 3:38 p.m.
Inspired by a similar call to action in Illinois by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law (covered on this thread on March 23), the Texas Public Policy Foundation called on the state’s child welfare agency to adopt a pro-parent approach during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is tasked with the important and difficult job of protecting children who are in imminent danger of abuse, and to carry out this responsibility in a restrained manner that respects the fundamental rights of families,” said the letter, which was sent to Commissioner Jaime Masters. “Due to the unique hardships citizens are navigating during this time of crisis, it is even more critical for the department to strike the proper balance between protecting children and respecting the constitutional and statutory rights of all Texas families.”
The letter highlights nine recommendations, a quarter of the amount asked for Illinois. Among them: expedited reunifications for some families, suspending all but the highest priority investigations of maltreatment, and suspending or changing service plans that expose parents to risk of infection.
CLICK HERE to read the letter.
Feds Lay Out Minimum Expectations for Child Welfare Courts During Coronavirus
March 30, 3:22 p.m.
U.S. Children’s Bureau leader Jerry Milner reminded state child welfare courts that remote or otherwise, certain hearings had to be held to keep federal dollars flowing during coronavirus.
OPINION: The Need for Extraordinary Efforts: Time of Crisis Reveal a System’s Values
March 30, 9:01 a.m.
In a month or two, Vivek Sankaran writes, parents who have been separated from the children will reenter juvenile and family courts for the first time since the traumatic pandemic. How courts react will reveal a system’s true colors.
OPINION: Looking Ahead: The Nation’s Child Welfare Systems after Coronavirus
March 30, 9:01 a.m.
Fred Wulczyn of Chapin Hall’s Center for State Child Welfare Data on the likelihood that child welfare systems will experience a soaring demand curve in the aftermath of coronavirus.
New York Foster Youth Ousted from Dorms Face the Weekend in Pandemic Limbo
March 27, 10:22 p.m.
New York City’s Dorm Project students, all current and former foster youths were assured they were going to be able to stay. An abrupt about-face left them scrambling for options over the weekend to the ire of city council’s child welfare leadership.
California Considers Extending Foster Care Supports for Youth Following Advocates’ Appeal for COVID-19 Relief
March 27, 7:46 p.m.
California’s Department of Social Services appears to be considering some measures proposed by child welfare advocates, including extension of foster care past 21 for those who age out during the pandemic lockdown.
Juvenile Justice Systems Wrestle with How to Shrink the Number of Youth in Lock-Up as Pandemic Intensifies
March 27, 5:19 p.m.
Incarcerated youth are at high risk of coronavirus infection, and some systems are now taking calls to release low-risk kids seriously
FosterClub Poll Finds Many Current and Former Foster Youth Struggling Amid Pandemic
March 27, 4:52 p.m.
FosterClub, a national network for young people in foster care, polled members between the age of 18 and 24 about how the coronavirus and ensuing societal changes are affecting them. The numbers are fairly jarring.
“Young people in and leaving foster care are incredibly vulnerable and are being hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. Many do not have family to rely on for emergency housing, meals, money, or advice,” said Executive Director Celeste Bodner, in a statement released with the poll. “Young people who age out of foster care work so hard to make it to college, find housing, become financially stable, and beat the odds. This pandemic threatens to undo all their hard work and places vulnerable young people in danger of homelessness, food insecurity, and mental health crisis.”
Among the findings, from 172 responses:
- 39.6 percent were forced to move or fear that it will happen soon.
- 27.6 percent of young people report they are low on food or in a “food crisis.” This was the number one concern voiced by older foster youths at a virtual town hall held by the nonprofit Think of Us last week.
- More than two-thirds have either been laid off or forced to cut back significantly on gig economy work.
FosterClub plans to follow up with targeted polls of youth who are under 18, and one of members who are 25 and older.
CLICK HERE to read the poll results.
A Handy State-by-State Rundown of Child Welfare Rules During Coronavirus
March 27, 4:20 p.m.
Casebook PBC, a human services platform incubated with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and launched as a company in 2017, has put together a very useful guide to … guidance.
As The Chronicle of Social Change has reported, the first weeks of the pandemic saw child welfare agencies scramble to write makeshift rules for a system that operates on in-person contact. Casebook CEO Tristan Louis has set up an easy-access website where hyperlinks lead a reader to the overall human services information and the more specific child welfare guidance for each state.
Also included is a collection of coronavirus-related guidance put out thus far by federal agencies, as well as links to resources for working at home and conducting virtual meetings.
CLICK HERE to access the Casebook website.
iFoster Ships More Than 3,000 Laptops, Phones to Current and Former Foster Youths
March 27, 3:30 p.m.
Last week, The Chronicle reported that the Truckee, Calif.-based nonprofit iFoster was working to support transition aged foster youth as college dorms shuttered and jobs dried up.
Since then, the organization has built up an array of public and private funders to source, vet requests for, and ship both laptops and phones to current and former foster youth who need them during the coronavirus pandemic.
To date, co-founder Serita Cox said, iFoster has sent 1,727 laptops and 2,373 phones, most of them sent within California.
“We are processing, validating and ordering about 350 new phone requests a day these days and the numbers are rising rapidly,” Cox said, in an email. “We are being inundated by requests from colleges (foster youth campus support programs), county child welfare departments (we were in an all-county letter sent last Friday), agencies, and individual youth and caregivers. Our tiny team of nine are hugely rising to the occasion.”
The next wave of phones, she said, will ship to high school age youth to stream classes and for visitations and telehealth visits. The phones are financed through the Lifeline program that iFoster already oversees – laptops have been funded by the California Chancellor’s Office and foundations including Walter S. Johnson Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation.
Cox intends to maintain a supportive line between her group and the youths receiving devices.
“Once we get our devices in the hands of our kiddos, our peer navigators will begin doing outreach and check-ins to ensure that our youth have the resources they need,” said Cox.
California Youth Connection Abruptly Lays Off Most Staff to ‘Restructure’ Amid Pandemic
In a move that shocked its partners in the child welfare world, California Youth Connection laid off most of its staff and announced it would use the slowdown created by the coronavirus pandemic to restructure.
Shut in at Home, Foster and Adoptive Parents Look Online for Support
March 26, 10:35 p.m.
Martha Hornthal and her wife Kathleen are among the many foster and adoptive parents who rely on outside services to help with high-needs youth. Permanency services providers are trying to figure out the best way to continue those in trying times.
A Heartfelt Appeal on Behalf of Incarcerated Youth During Pandemic
March 26, 7 a.m.
A letter from David Domenici, founder of the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings, about how youth are feeling inside the walls of juvenile justice facilities these days.
Panic, Frantic Calls as New York Foster Youth Ousted from Dorms
March 25, 10:22 p.m.
After regular reassurances that their living situation was stable, more than 100 current and former foster youths were given two days to vacate college dorms in New York City.
“The fact that it’s an emergency about saving lives – that’s fine,” one said. “But there are students who have nowhere to go. Maybe 10 I know of.”
Coronavirus Claims Beloved New York Juvenile Justice Mentor
March 25, 8:41 p.m.
“Magnificent Miller,” “Miller Maine” and “Uncle Mill.” These are just some of the nicknames lovingly used to describe Jermaine Miller, a renowned youth worker with the nonprofit Sheltering Arms whose life was claimed by the coronavirus this month.
California Walls Off Juvenile Justice Facilities to New Entries
March 25, 3:02 p.m.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that during the coronavirus lockdown of the state, its juvenile justice facilities will not accept new entries.
Coronavirus Hits a New York Group Home – How One Nonprofit Responded
March 24, 10:53 p.m.
In a scenario that is likely to play out at residential programs around the country, one New York City-area nonprofit jumped into containment mode when a staffer tested positive for coronavirus.
Scared but Stable, a Former Foster Youth Fights for Survival During Pandemic
March 24, 9:50 p.m.
April Barcus is a 24-year-old former foster youth in the Los Angeles area. She talks to reporter Sara Tiano about trying to survive the pandemic with health complications, unemployment and mounting bills.
Judge in Los Angeles Dependency Has Coronavirus Symptoms
March 24, 10:02 a.m.
A judge and staff at Los Angeles County’s Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Courthouse have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days after the judge reported “symptoms consistent with COVID-19.”
According to a press release, Los Angeles County Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile made the decision out of “an abundance of caution” since the judge has not been tested for the coronavirus. The Superior Court has not released the name of the dependency-court judge or his staff, citing privacy concerns.
Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the judge’s courtroom and chambers were disinfected after the judge notified the court about his symptoms.
The 30 courtrooms at the Edelman Courthouse handle most of the cases for the 34,000 children involved in L.A. County’s child welfare system. A smaller satellite court in the Antelope Valley, the Alfred J McCourtney Juvenile Justice Center, also handles a small number of cases as well.
The notice also said that the Superior Court “will make every effort” to notify those people who may have been exposed to the judge at court.
Opinion: Tackling Youth Homelessness with Cash During Coronavirus
March 24, 8:53 a.m.
Authors from Chapin Hall argue that the coronavirus pandemic, and the way that it has impacted services to runaway and homeless youths, bolsters the arguments for regular cash assistance to this population.
Even with More Protective Supplies on the Way, Coronavirus Confusion for Los Angeles Social Workers
March 23, 11:24 p.m.
As Los Angeles County awaits more protective gear, a state directive has created tension about protecting employees from coronavirus on the job.
Illinois Legal Advocates Call on State to Support System-Involved Parents During Crisis
March 23, 10:42 p.m.
Several parent advocates and community organizations signed onto a letter urging Illinois child welfare leaders to adopt a pro-parent approach during the coronavirus pandemic.
While the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has to follow federal and state guidelines on preventing the spread of the virus, it cannot do so at the expense of “the constitutional and statutory rights of the families it serves,” said the letter, penned by the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and signed by 16 other leaders and organizations.
“The Department’s response must be aimed at achieving this two-pronged goal and not leave families at risk of contracting COVID-19 or stymie progress towards family reunification in a time when connection with and to loved ones is as important as ever,” said the letter, which was sent to DCFS Acting Director Marc Smith late last week.
The letter outlines 36 actions its authors feel the agency should take. Among them:
- Call off any child protective services investigations where the allegations do not constitute threats to a child’s safety, or investigators have reason to believe were borne of ill will toward the caregiver.
- Conduct all services for parents remotely to avoid risk of spread.
- Guarantee continuation of the state’s “Norman” services, a DCFS anti-poverty program involving housing advocacy and cash assistance.
- Ensure that parents are not tagged with “unsatisfactory” progress reports due to changes in service plans, or in job or life circumstances related to the pandemic.
- Mandate in-person visitation between parents and children “to the absolute maximum extent possible.”
Diane Redleaf, a leading advocate for the rights of parents and a signatory on the letter, said the recommendations were borne of disturbing reports over the first weeks of the coronavirus crisis.
“We are very concerned with actual policies and practices that are now operating across Illinois,” she told The Chronicle of Social Change, in an email. “We are hearing of many people who are being stopped from contact with their kids now.”
You can read the full letter by Clicking Here.
Homeless Youth Found Infected in New York as Providers Clamor for Help
March 23, 9:46 p.m.
A young person at a youth homeless shelter tested positive for coronavirus on the same day providers implored the mayor to address “significant concerns” with operation plans during the pandemic.
California Provides State Guidance for Child Welfare, Leaves “Visit” Decisions to Locals
March 23, 1:28 p.m.
The California Department of Social Services (DSS), which oversees funding going out to the state’s 58 county child welfare systems, issued a guidance laying out its expectations for those agencies during the pandemic.
Click Here to access the full guidance. We have broken down some of the key aspects of it here:
In-Person, Caseworker Contact
DSS makes clear that the investigation of screened in calls and reports of child abuse or neglect are an essential service, and must always be done in person. The guidance spells out suggested pre-screening steps that caseworkers can make to
But from past investigations of maltreatment, DSS uses one phrase consistently to describe its view that the use of in-person contacts will be at the discretion of the county systems. For monthly visits with families getting services, youth in foster homes, non-minor dependents in foster care, and for pre- and post-adoptive placements, the decision to make in-person contact “is a case-specific decision that must be made based on the training and experience of the social worker, considering all available information.”
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
DSS seems to suggest that protective gear such as masks or gloves is not required for caseworkers going into the homes of families, unless a screening interview beforehand has revealed a known risk.
DSS notes that the state Department of Public Health issued rules that PPE “should only be used by healthy individuals in specific circumstances (i.e., when staff are in prolonged close contact with someone with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection).
“Should your county need additional supplies of PPE for recommended uses, the process for requesting those is to contact your local Office of Emergency Services,” the guidance said.
DSS said that for children younger than 3, “counties should work to maintain face-to-face visits, which allow them to continue to develop critical early bonds with their parent, unless there are individual health-related risks that prevent this from happening.”
It recommends Facetime or Skype sessions when visits can’t occur, and link agencies to a best practices guide for doing virtual visits.
DSS also suggested something urged by the Los Angeles dependency courts last week: if parents are eligible for longer, unsupervised visits, caseworkers should consider granting visits to extend those visits to allow children to stay with parents during the lockdown.
Youth in College
DSS, echoing a notice sent last week by U.S. Children’s Bureau head Jerry Milner, said “it will be important for counties to reach out to these youth to ensure they have the resources needed for transportation funds if they must temporarily move from campus, for alternate housing if dorms close, and to remain supported while they are out of school and to assist with ensuring that they are able to return to their campuses if they need to leave.”
DSS recommends considering the use of Supervised Independent Living Program – an option under the state’s extended foster care program where youth are cut a monthly check for an agreed-upon independent living space – to help any students affected by college dorm closures.
Out of State
Reiterating some guidance it put out last week, DSS said that it was willing to help liaison with other states to conduct necessary visits and check-ins with foster youths living outside of the state, either in residential programs or more often with relatives that have taken them in.
New York City Scrambles for Staffing, Beds for Foster Youth Amid Pandemic
March 20, 11:13 p.m.
New York City and its network of foster care providers face a duel challenge: isolating symptomatic kids, and removing them from foster parents who fall too ill.
New York, Los Angeles Take Different Paths on Family Visits
March 20, 8:50 p.m.
Two of the largest child welfare systems in the country took decidedly different positions on family visits during the coronavirus outbreak.
L.A. Child Welfare Social Workers Conducting Home Visits without Protection Against Coronavirus
March 20, 11:25 a.m.
As first responders face a growing shortage of protective gear, social workers across sprawling Los Angeles County have continued to make visits to the homes of children and families in the child welfare system — at times without masks or gloves, according to social workers with the county’s Department of Children and Family Services.
Top 10 Needs of Foster Youth During the Coronavirus Outbreak
March 20, 9:43 a.m.
Think of Us, the nonprofit that co-hosted a virtual town hall with U.S. Children’s Bureau leader Jerry Milner this week, received 1,400 submissions from current and former foster youths about what their main concerns were as the country prepared for an unprecedented fight against a pandemic.
“The number one thing that came up was food,” said Think of Us Founder Sixto Cancel, on the town hall webinar. Cancel said it was alarming that foster youths saw basic survival necessity as an uncertainty.
The other most frequently cited concerns reported to Think of Us:
- Health care
- Technology (access to laptops, WiFi)
- Financial assistance
- Housing supplies
- Parenting and child care
Cancel called for funders and advocates in the virtual audience to get engaged and asked Milner “to commit that you’ll circle back with states to make sure young people are checked on.” Milner sent a letter to agencies last week urging them to make sure that older youths on college campuses were OK as schools began closing for at least a portion of the semester and reverting to online classes.
Milner said that the Children’s Bureau is “going to be in regular communication [with states] to get a sense of what the emerging needs are.”
Early in the town hall, Milner said the issues experienced by foster youth during this crisis are indicative of longer-term problems with foster care, which he has frequently said is used too often in the country.
“It should not take a pandemic to reach out and be proactive to make sure you get what you need,” Milner said. “It’s unacceptable for a single young person in foster care to feel alone and unsupported, they should never be in that situation.
Cancel called on current and former foster youth to work with him and other advocates to make their needs and concerns clear.
“If there was ever a time for us to play a concrete role, this is it,” he said. “We have to make sure not one young person is falling through the gaps.”
The Chronicle will post a recording of the town hall on this thread once it is available.
FosterClub Building List of Resources for Foster Youth
March 20, 9:10 a.m.
FosterClub, an organization that serves as the connective tissue for youth who have experienced foster care nationwide, has published and will continue to update a list of resources available to young people.
“While the pandemic is creating chaos for everyone, we recognize how hard the challenges fall on young people who experienced (or are experiencing) foster care, especially for those without family support.” FosterClub said, on its website. “We’ve created this page to provide links to resources, information, and opportunities to find support.”
Click Here to access the site, which already includes links to financial assistance related to relocation and housing, laptops and cell phone connections.
Human Services Sector Calls for $60 Billion from Congress, “Essential” Status Locally
March 20, 9:03 a.m.
A group of nonprofit leaders in youth and family services are calling for a $60 billion influx from Congress and “essential services” status from local government to keep a precarious but critical part of the economy.
Legislators Ask Leadership for Increases, Flexibility on Federal Funds for Child Welfare
March 19, 8:25 p.m.
A group of leaders on child welfare policy in Congress – Reps. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) – sent a letter to House leadership asking for augmentation of certain child welfare programs to help during the coronavirus outbreak.
Michigan Suspends In-Person Visits, Other States Likely to Follow
March 19, 2:50 p.m.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told foster parents in a letter sent out today that all in-person visits by caseworkers were suspended until “at least April 6,” and that visitation between foster youths and their parents should happen using video and phone.
JooYeun Chang, head of the Children’s Services Agency, said the office had heard the concerns about the riskiness of contact during a time when the country is isolating to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The safety and health of your family, the children in your care, their parents, and our child welfare workforce remains my top priority,” said Chang in the letter.
While caseworker visits are fully off until early April, Chang said that in-person family visits can occur as long as both sides agree and establish there is nobody who is symptomatic or has been in touch with someone that is.
Chang also directed families to a website created by the state that maps where families can pick up meals usually provided by area schools.
It is likely that most states will shift to virtual meetings between caseworkers and youth, and between youth and birth families. Yesterday, the U.S. Children’s Bureau nudged states in that direction with a letter clarifying that while federal law requires caseworkers to have eyes on foster youth in person at least once a month, those visits could proceed through videoconferencing during the outbreak.
Resources for Education in Juvenile Justice Facilities During Coronavirus
March 19, 11:52 a.m.
Juvenile justice advocates are pushing for systems to release any youths who are in detention centers and commitment facilities, but who do not pose a safety risk. For those youths who do remain in locked settings, schooling will be even more challenging than usual.
The Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS) is taking point on helping systems figure out new ways to deliver learning without the presence of teachers. It has collected a list of online education resources, and a direct technical assistance line to the organization for those who wish to discuss learning options.
CEEAS Executive Director David Domenici also said his organization would help advocates push for continued education for incarcerated youth as well.
“If you are struggling at the policy level to have the voices of your students heard, and are facing challenges around the notion that students held in secure settings have the right to education during difficult times, click here to set up time to talk. I will do all I can to support you,” he said, in a note to colleagues.
Opinion: Family Visits Are An Essential Service
March 19, 10:42 a.m.
Kinship Support Groups Mobilize to Help a Vulnerable Population
MARCH 19, 3:30 p.m. EST: Virtual Town Hall Tomorrow to Hear from Foster Youth about Coronavirus
Originally posted March 18, 3:51 p.m.
The U.S. Children’s Bureau is partnering with tech entrepreneur and former foster youth Sixto Cancel to hold a virtual town hall for foster youth about what supports they need in the wake of the coronavirus.
Feds Ease Rules on Monthly Visits to Foster Youths
March 18, 6:31 p.m.
The sprawling impact of coronavirus has left state and local child welfare agencies searching for on-the-fly answers to questions about key parts of the process. One of those questions: what to do about caseworker visits to foster youth, which traditionally require the kind of in-person meetups that can spread the dangerous COVID-19 virus?
They got some answers from above today in the form of guidance from the U.S. Children’s Bureau, which eased federal regulations to allow those visits to be carried out using videoconferencing.
“While it is imperative that caseworkers continue to ensure the well-being of children in care, that imperative must be balanced against the health of caseworkers, children in care, and all of the people with whom they come into contact,” said a letter to child welfare leaders, sent today by Jerry Milner, who heads the bureau.
The federal government wields tremendous influence on child welfare systems as a major funder of family preservation efforts, foster care, adoptions. Federal law requires that caseworkers visit children in foster care at least once every month, and the Child Welfare Policy Manual instructs that those visits occur in person.
California’s Department of Social Services (DSS), and possibly other state agencies, asked the Children’s Bureau if there was flexibility on that requirement during the crisis. DSS was told that no, monthly visits must continue.
But today’s letter makes clear that the visits do not need to occur in person:
The monthly caseworker visit requirement remains in place, but we are modifying our policy to permit such visits to be conducted by videoconferencing in these current extraordinary circumstances. The amended CWPM question and answer will be sent out on the Children’s Bureau list serves and updated online in the coming days.
Milner’s letter also informs leaders of some flexibility on the administrative side of things. Program Improvement Plans – which outline steps states must take to rectify gaps in their systems, with deadlines – can be amended and delayed. And Title IV-E eligibility reviews, which determine the amount of federal funding a state can claim, will be delayed until onsite meetings are safe to hold.
Los Angeles Probation Shuts Down Office Visits, Mulls Juvenile Incarceration
March 18, 12:07 p.m.
One of the largest local probation systems in the country has shut down its offices, walled off facilities from family visits, and is mulling changes to which youths need to be locked up during the pandemic.
A Guide to Anticipating The Needs of Students Who Are Homeless or in Foster Care
March 18, 10:24 a.m.
As the spread of coronavirus prompted nationwide closures of colleges, an initial point of alarm in the child welfare community became the most vulnerable youth on campus – those in foster care, or those who were homeless.
While it seems that most colleges have been able to continue offering the most critical protection to these students – housing – there are a group of advocates who are have put together a brief guide for academic institutions that outlines how to make sure homeless and foster youth students are protected during the fight against this pandemic.
“The current health crisis is scary for everyone. It can be much scarier for young people who are on their own,” said the guide, which was produced by Juvenile Law Center with SchoolHouse Connection and The Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. “The risk that this crisis will cause increased instability for students is great, given a lack of existing support systems.”
Among the subjects covered in the three-page document (which links to many related resources): planning frequent and proactive check-ins, identifying housing supports and connections to affordable wi-fi, and helping students work through financial aid issues such as work study hours.
Click Here to access the guide.
Opinion: Coronavirus Reveals The Need to Modernize Child Welfare and Juvenile Courts
March 18, 7:33 a.m.
Around the country, many courts are shutting down and delaying important hearings for families and children, Vivek Sankaran writes. It wouldn’t be necessary if we had invested in modern technology to improve the court process.
In Los Angeles, Food Access Has Parents Fearful
March 17, 3:52 p.m.
Shields for Families is one of the city’s largest family preservation and substance abuse programs. While clients worry about access to food, its longtime leader thinks about keeping the doors open in crisis.
Washington State Child Welfare Leader to Field: “Tsunami” is Coming Your Way
March 17, 2:12 p.m.
Dave Newell of Children’s Home Society of Washington reflects on a week that forced his leadership team to think about how to keep a lifeline to clients while worrying about the future health of the staff.
Probation Experts: Time to Decrease the Footprint During Crisis
March 17, 12:56 p.m.
A group of nearly 40 current and former probation leaders appealed to criminal justice systems to dramatically reduce the scope and size of the adult and juvenile probation as the country works through the coronavirus pandemic.
How Coronavirus Has Affected “Conference Season” in Child Welfare
March 16, 11:45 p.m.
The Child Welfare League of America was set to celebrate its 100th anniversary with a major national conference this month. It is one of many organizations who now face the choice of cancelling, postponing, or hoping for the best for long-planned events.
Nonprofits Simultaneously Contemplate Changes to Services, Staff and Bottom Line
March 16, 11:30 p.m.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption presides over the nation’s largest effort to find permanency for hard-to-place foster youth. Its CEO, Rita Soronen, discusses how the nonprofit assessed impact in a whirlwind week.
In New York City, Court Decisions Could Mean Longer Stays in Foster Care and Detention
March 16, 8.55 p.m.
An order from one of the city’s top judges, obtained by The Chronicle of Social Change, appears to permit delays in the hearings that would facilitate a child’s return from foster care or return home from a juvenile detention center.
Minnesota Courts Open for Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice
March 16, 3:57 p.m.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has declared that family courts will continue to be open, with heavy reliance on telephone and video participation.
“The courts are one of the first promises made in the Minnesota Constitution,” said Chief Justice Lorie Gildea.
Indiana Will Disperse Addiction Medication Through Lockboxes
March 16, 11:35 a.m.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SMHSA) last week sent out guidance stressing that take-home orders of methadone and other drugs used to treat addiction should be used for anyone eligible. SAMHSA also recommended that opioid treatment programs facilitate “appropriate alternatives” to program attendance for those patients who are not authorized for unsupervised doses of methadone or similar medication.
Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration announced today that it was creating lockboxes where patients could pick up doses outside of treatment program offices. Naloxone kits, to prevent overdoses, will also be included in the lockboxes.
“It’s imperative that we take any and all measures necessary to support Hoosiers in achieving or maintaining optimal health and well-being during the global pandemic,” said Secretary Dr. Jennifer Sullivan. “Urging Hoosiers to isolate themselves from each other is necessary, but for some it could bring unique health risks. For our fellow Hoosiers recovering from opioid use disorder, this innovative approach to delivering the medications they need daily will support them in their recovery while also helping contain the spread of COVID-19.”
The opioid epidemic in the past decade led in part to a surge in parents involved in child welfare cases. Methadone Maintenance Therapy was recently approved as an evidence-based treatment for funding under the Family First Act, which opened up the federal IV-E child welfare entitlement to help states pay for efforts to prevent the use of foster care in some cases.
Tipping Point Foundation Giving $1 Million to Buffer Grantees
March 16, 11:07 a.m.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, nonprofit Tipping Point Community announced it will commit $1 million to its grantees as a result of the coronavirus.
Tipping Point funds organizations working to serve safety-net communities, including several dealing with the needs of youth aging out of the foster care system. According to Tipping Point, families struggling with poverty are disproportionately affected by the contraction of employment and the closure of institutions, particularly hourly-wage and contract workers. And nonprofit organizations that serve them are also left vulnerable during crises thanks to a decrease in donations and fundraising events thanks to social distancing practices.
“Nonprofit leaders are a different kind of first responder. They’re the first call for many people when they’re faced with impossible economic challenges such as losing their home or not being able to put food on the table – especially during a time like we’re in right now,” said Tipping Point CEO Sam Cobbs. “We have an opportunity to help and we can do it quickly when the need is most acute. Now is the time to step forward, not step back.”
Advocates Looking for Docs, Lawyers to Support Limits on Use of Detention
March 14, 1:41 p.m.
The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is looking for the help of epidemiologists and other medical professionals in pushing juvenile justice systems to restrict the use of detention centers during this health crisis.
From a tweet sent by the organization today:
“If you are an epidemiologist or other medical professional who believes the COVID-19 pandemic calls for limiting the number of young people held in detention facilities, please contact NJDC at email@example.com.”
The organization also asked defense attorneys who have written motions to keep kids out of detention during the coronavirus to redact names and share the motions with NJDC, which is hoping to use these as instructive templates elsewhere in the country.
Lower in this thread (March 13, 11:50 a.m.), well-known juvenile justice expert Vinny Schiraldi argues that systems should focus on lowering detention use and should stop making kids report for probation visits at crowded offices.
Famous New York City Nonprofit Pleads for Government Direction
March 13, 6:22 p.m.
Good Shepherd Services, one of the city’s most celebrated providers of child and family services, issued a statement late on Friday pointedly asking government agencies for support and guidance.
“In times like this, our government and philanthropic partners must provide proactive, concrete guidance to support our contingency planning and disaster response,” said Good Shepherd Executive Director Michelle Yanche.
The statement calls for five points of action:
- Upfront funding supplies, “or at the very least guarantees that cost outlays will be reimbursed”
- Guaranteed reimbursement of costs related to disaster preparedness and sick pay for quarantined staff
- Continuous updates on the suspension or relaxation of policies penalties regarding outcomes and other benchmarks – “i.e. enrollment numbers and attendance requirements outlined in our contracts and grants.”
- Flexibility to allow deployment of staff from closed programs to high priority programs – “i.e. residential programs that cannot close.”
- Establishing a “designated point of contact” at each government agency with “decision-making authority to respond to in-the-moment situations as they arise.”
“Our contingency and emergency response plans cannot wait, but we cannot properly develop or execute them without critical information from our funding partners,” Yanche said. “Otherwise, to do so we will be to take on enormous financial, contractual and reputational risk.”
Foster Parents Scramble to Make Plans, with Little Advice from Above
March 13, 3:30 p.m.
School closures and other coronavirus-adjacent changes have left foster parents trying to figure out contingency plans for child care, employment and more. And, several foster parents tell Kim Hansel, they are not getting much advice or direction from child welfare agencies.
California’s Systems Brace for Impact
March 13, 3:16 p.m.
Sara Tiano looks at how the California state government and its largest local system, Los Angeles, are preparing for the health and social implications of coronavirus on child welfare and juvenile justice.
Nonprofit Raising Funds to Help Foster Youth Facing College Closures
March 13, 2:50 p.m.
Together We Rise is raising funds and working to connect foster youths with stable housing if they are on a campus closing their residence halls.
Vinny Schiraldi, Juvenile Justice Expert: It’s a Good Time to Lower Use of Probation and Detention
March 13, 11:50 a.m.
Vinny Schiraldi ran the agency that oversaw Washington, D.C.’s juvenile detention and correctional facilities. He then ran New York’s probation system.
Now is an excellent time to curb the country’s reliance on both of these things, he said.
“There’s not really tremendous support for probation and incarceration as public safety vehicles,” Schiraldi said, in a phone interview with The Chronicle of Social Change. “We’re not giving up an evidence-based practice. So in this case, what’s good for coronavirus might just be good for kids.”
Schiraldi said that while crowded juvenile facilities should be of concern, probation would be his focus in making changes. “There are half a million kids on probation,” he said, “probably 10 times as many” as are incarcerated.
In addition to limiting the number of youths being placed on probation, he said, “I’d also carefully look at kids on my caseload, and eliminate office visits for anyone who doesn’t need to come in. The last thing you want to do is bring kids at risk into contact with each other in an office, under the pains and penalty of going to jail.”
On the facility front, he said, detention centers are a true point of concern. Often used for pretrial holds on youth, or short-term sentences, these facilities see a high rate of people coming and going.
“I’d be asking, do we really need to detain them?” said Schiraldi. “Half of them are in and out in two days. These are medically vulnerable young people. There’s not always access to soap/water. Sometimes they’re doubled up, two to a cell.”
The scope of America’s juvenile justice system makes it difficult to borrow from the experience of countries that have already taken on coronavirus, Schiraldi said.
“None of them are incarcerating nearly as many kids as we are,” he said. “So there’s no model to look at.”
Coronavirus Hits New York Family Court
March 13, 9 a.m.
An intern at the Manhattan dependency court tested positive for COVID-19, and was on the premises as recently as last Friday. Attorneys expressed frustration at the delay in notifying them, leaving them to worry about their own families while also scrambling to notify clients.