Dear Foster Parent:
Over the past several days, we have seen our state and federal governments take unprecedented measures to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Child and Family Services (CFS) remains committed to the safety of our children, families, and resource parents as we all learn to manage the challenges of this new disease. As a country, the information regarding the novel coronavirus continues to be updated on a daily basis, and as such, we continue to make decisions based on the most current recommendations from our state and federal partners. In order to communicate information to you, we will be posting future letters and updates on our foster parent resource webpage. Please frequently check this webpage Foster/Adoptive Parent Resources for the most current information.
As we learn more about this virus, we want to assure you that the department is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while considering the well-being of children and their families, as well as your family. If you have questions about the virus, it is important to obtain information from a trusted source such as https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/ or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Please utilize these helpful resources to obtain information on how to prepare your household for possible exposure to the virus.
Here are a few steps you can immediately begin taking to help prevent the spread of this virus. For prevention measures, the CDC recommends that everyone follow the normal precautions for avoiding the flu and other respiratory diseases.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public; going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
o If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
If you think your foster child or someone in your household is sick and you are worried it may be COVID-19, please contact your health care provider immediately to discuss symptoms and next steps. Your health care provider will provide you with further guidance including getting tested.
If anyone in your household, including a child in foster care, is being tested for or is diagnosed with COVID-19, please take the following steps:
• Notify the assigned case manager for the child in your care immediately.
• If this occurs after hours or on the weekend, please contact our Centralized Intake Unit at 208-334-5437.
• Notify the biological parents or guardian if you have previous approval for contact by the assigned social worker.
In order to assist in preventing the spread of the virus, Child and Family Services will take the following precautions in the event a child in foster care or someone in your household is being tested for or is diagnosed with COVID-19:
• The department will assist in canceling any appointments for the child in foster care until approval for contact is approved by a medical professional.
• Arrangements will be made with you, the department, and the biological parents to maintain frequent contact by phone, face time or email as approved by the assigned case manager to assist in sharing information about the status of the child you are caring for.
Child and Family Services has also asked for biological parents to follow the same guidelines as above to prevent the spread of the virus.
Effective immediately, all supervised parent/child visits will be conducted utilizing videoconferencing (i.e. FaceTime, Skype, or other videoconferencing technology). This change will continue until April 3, 2020, at which time it will be re-evaluated. The social worker will be in contact with you to make arrangements; if you do not have the ability to support video visits please notify the social worker as soon as possible. During this challenging time, children may have additional worries about their parents. Please talk with the worker about increasing contact outside of the scheduled visit time including additional video conferences, phone calls, texts, or other forms of communication that may help decrease the anxiety for children.
All visits between parents and children that are unsupervised will be negotiated between you as the caregiver, the biological parents or relatives who participate in visits, and the social worker or supervisor. This negotiation must include the questions identified below to screen all participants for COVID-19. Keeping everyone safe from exposure to COVID-19 is essential during this process. All participants of an unsupervised visit will be asked the following questions before deciding to recommend unsupervised visits to a supervisor:
• Have you, or any member of your family, been exposed to someone who has a confirmed case of COVID-19?
• Have you traveled to areas highly affected by COVID-19?
• Are you or anyone in your household being tested for COVID-19?
• Do you have any of the following symptoms?
o Dry cough
o Shortness of breath
If any of the answers to those questions are yes for any participant, then the unsupervised visit must be completed via video conferencing. If the participants cannot agree on the parameters of the unsupervised visit, or if the department assesses that that any of the participants cannot follow the recommendation for social distancing, a supervisor or chief will be included to determine next steps.
All unsupervised visits that are agreed upon will receive final approval from a department supervisor who will review the plan that addresses how the spread of COVID-19 will be decreased during the visit.
Social Worker Contacts
To further prevent the spread of the virus, Child and Family Services will immediately begin conducting monthly visits with children in foster care through video conferencing such as Skype, FaceTime, or other video conferencing technology. There may be occasions where a face to face visit between the child and case manager may be necessary. If you do not have videoconferencing capability, please notify your child’s case manager so that decisions can be made on how to complete this federally required visit. Social workers have been provided guidance on how to best complete this video visit with the child and with you as the caregiver to assure everyone’s needs are met.
Social workers will still need to speak with children, depending on their age and development, privately. As the caregiver, please plan for children to have this time with their social worker so they may assess the child’s safety, permanency, and well-being. For infants, non-verbal, and very young children, the social worker will need your assistance in completing this important contact.
The social worker will also want to speak with you privately to help assess for the child’s safety, permanency, and well-being as well as your needs as the child’s current caregiver. If possible, arrange for another adult to play with the child while you speak with the worker.
Re-licensing Home Visits
We have asked that all home visits required to relicense families prior to April 3, 2020 be rescheduled to further prevent spread of the virus. Licensing social workers will still conduct visits with resource families if there are concerns for compliance with licensing rules or standards.
We recognize that the current novel coronavirus outbreak and constant media coverage can be anxiety-producing. While it is important to stay informed, there are things we can do to manage our mental well-being:
• Avoid speculation and get your information from reputable sources, such as:
o Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html),
o World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019),
o Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/).
• Manage how you follow the outbreak in the media. If the news is causing you additional stress, reduce your media intake.
• Talk about your fears, anxiety, and stress. Internalizing these will only make you feel worse.
We ask that you continue discussing any upcoming travel plans with your case worker.
The department appreciates your continued partnership in caring for Idaho’s children. With your help, we will help to prevent this spread of the virus at the same time as we work to assure the safety, permanency, and well-being of the children in our care. Please remember to frequently check the Resource Parent webpage for updates.
Family and Community Services