COVID-19 extension of various foster care and child welfare changes

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has informed counties of extensions of various COVID-19 policies for foster care and child welfare services.  The following guidance is extended until the end of the COVID-19 State of Emergency:  ACL 20-33, summarized here, about placement preservation in the event of exposure to, symptoms of or a positive test for COVID-19, and ACL 20-58, child welfare reassessments during the COVID-19 State of Emergency.

The following guidance is extended through August 4, 2020: ACIN I-32-20, summarized here, verification of foster care status for cell phone access.  ACL 20-74 (June 26, 2020).

COVID-19 extension of child care for families at risk

In All County Welfare Directors Letter May 4, 2020, summarized here, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) implemented extension of child care vouchers under the Foster Care Bridge program that would expire for 60 days because of COVID-19 until June 30, 2020.  CDSS has issued instructions extending this authority until August 4, 2020.  (All County Welfare Directors Letter, June 19, 2020.)

COVID-19 resuming in-person requirements for RFA complaint investigations

In ACL 20-43, summarized here, the California Department of Social Services provided guidance regarding waiver of in-person various requirements for Resource Family Approval (RFA).  Effective July 1, 2020, all requirements for in person complaint investigations are reinstated.  All other waivers in ACL 20-43 remain in place.

Investigations of complaints that do not alleged serious health and safety risk may continue remotely on a case-by-case basis, if the state, county, or local public health department provides direction and/or shifts back to Stage 1, the resource family refuses entry because of their COVID-19 related concerns, or the resource family, child, or someone else in the household is experiencing symptoms of or has tested positive for COVID-19.  If in-person contact is not possible because of one of these exceptions, the flexibilities in ACL 20-43 may be used through August 5, 2020.  (ACL 20-71, June 18, 2020.)

COVID-19 financial support for at risk families

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided information about financial support for eligible at-risk families with child welfare contact during the COVID-19 state of emergency.  Households are eligible if they meet one of the following criteria with a case open at any time in April, 2020 or a new case opened in May or June, 2020:

  • Households with a Family Maintenance service component without a subsequent entry into Foster Care.
  • Households with an Emergency Response service component without a subsequent entry into Foster Care.
  • Households with a substantiated Emergency Response referral, without an accompanying case opening or entry into Foster Care.
  • Households with an inconclusive Emergency Response referral, without an accompanying case opening or entry into Foster Care, where the Structured Decision Making Risk Assessment was considered high or very high.
  • Probation cases where children or youth were at imminent or serious risk of removal or candidates for foster care.

Eligible households will be issued prepaid cards. The assistance payment will be $200 per month for April, May and June, 2020 or $400 per month for an eligible household with three or more children at risk of entering Foster Care.  Households with cases opened in May will receive the payment for May and June, and households with cases opened in June will receive the payment for June.

These payments will not count as income for CalWORKs or CalFresh.  (ACIN I-44-20, June 1, 2020.)

COVID-19 ongoing child care for at-risk populations

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance regarding child care services for the Emergency Child Care Bridge Program for Foster Children (Bridge Program) and other at-risk populations during the COVID-19 emergency.

Children at-risk should continue to receiving child care at the request of the caregiver or parent even if the caregiver or parent is not employed in a job designated as essential.

If a Bridge Program voucher is scheduled to expire during the emergency period, counties may extend the voucher for 60 days.  This flexibility is in place until June 30, 2020 or when the State of Emergency has ended, whichever is earlier.  When the family secures a long-term child care placement, the Bridge Program voucher is terminated.  (ACWDL, May 4, 2020.)

COVID-19 verification of foster care status for Phones for Foster Youth program

The Phones for Foster Youth program provides a free smartphone with unlimited voice and text and hotspot capability, to current and former foster youth residing in California.  To be eligible, a person must be a current or former foster youth between ages 13 and 26 who was in foster care on their 13th birthday or later and who resides in California.  To apply, persons must fill out an application by email and provide verification of their dependency or ward status and foster care placement.  Youth who do not currently have access to email or internet can contact the Office of the Foster Care Ombudsperson for assistance.

Pursuant to Executive Order, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) may issue foster care verification to current dependents and wards for purposes of the Phones for Foster Youth program.  CDSS, county placement agencies and IV-E tribes may provide verification directly.  County placement agencies and IV-E tribes may provide a list of foster youth eligible for the program.  Current or former foster youth may request a verification letter from contact the Office of the Foster Care Ombudsperson.  (ACIN I-32-20, April 17, 2020.)