COVID-19 and Resource Family Approval

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance for operating the Resource Family Approval (RFA) program during COVID-19.  Interviews for family evaluation, including the applicants and children in the home, may be done by videoconference.

Capacity requirements for resource families or applicants may be waived if there is an immediate need for placement of additional children because of isolation or quarantine requirements. There may not be more than 6 foster children in a home unless there is an exception to the federal capacity limit.

A county may waive home and grounds requirements related to bedroom sharing and use of common areas for sleeping as necessary because of COVID-19.

If an RFA applicant cannot complete pre-approval training but has completed all other RFA requirements, the family may be approved and pre-approval training completed within 180 days of approval.

For complaints alleging behavior that serious endangers health or safety of a child in care, the county must conduct an in-person visit.  For complaints that do not pose an immediate health or safety risk, investigations may be opened and conducted by phone or video.

If a resource family has a 12-month approval update due, the family may complete it up to 180 days after the due date.

If a resource family asks to end inactive status in order to take immediate placement of a child, the county may complete the emergency placement process.  The county can extend the timeframe to get required updates to 90 days.

Counties are encourage to allow RFA applicants to submit scanned copies or photographs of documents.  If that is not available, counties may accept self-attestation of all required information.

Protocol for out of county placements is unchanged.  (ACL 20-43, April 17, 2020.)

COVID-19 supporting emergency care and placement

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance regarding new placement and funding flexibility to support emergency care and placement of children and nonminor dependents because of COVID-19.  If there is no other placement available, counties may use the emergency placement process to allow placement with an unapproved family.  These placements must include in-home inspection of the potential home, and California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) and child abuse checks.  The in-home inspection must be done in person.  The caregiver must complete and sign the criminal history disclosure form.

If local live scan services are not reasonably available, the time for the caregiver to submit fingerprints can be extended up to 90 days after the end of the shelter in place order.

Emergency caregivers are eligible for emergency caregiver funding.  This funding shall continue if approval exceeds 365 days because of delay in the Resource Family Approval process because of COVID-19.

Children who are exposed to, test positive for or present symptoms of COVID-19 may temporarily need a higher level of medical care and supervision.  CDSS authorizes paying a higher rate when the child requires isolation or quarantine because of COVID-19 and as a result there are increase care and supervision needs, or the child requires a new placement because of COVID-19.

Children in a Short-Term Residental Therapeutic Program may need to be moved.  If the higher rate is insufficient to find a placement for these children, the county is authorized to negotiate a rate for a family willing to accept the child.  (ACL 20-44, April 17, 2020.)

COVID-19 and Extended Foster Care

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is extending the Extended Foster Care program for nonminor dependents currently in Extended Foster Care who turn 21 on or after April 18, 2020 until June 30, 2020.  Before a nonminor dependent reaches their 21st birthday, counties should discuss this temporary extension with the nonminor dependent to determine if they want it.

Counties should be flexible with nonminor dependents who cannot meet eligibility criteria because of COVID-19.  In general, nonminor dependants must be either completing secondary education or in a program leading to an equivalent credential, enrolled in college or vocational education, participating in a program to promote or remove barriers to employment, be employed for at least 80 hours per month, or be incapable of doing other activities because of a medical condition.

Nonminor dependents who have lost their jobs or had their education disrupted remain eligible for Extended Foster Care.  Nonminor dependents who are doing distance learning remain eligible for Extended Foster Care.  Nonminor dependents remain eligible if they cannot participate because of COVID-19 but are doing programs to promote or reduce barriers to employment or have a medical condition that prevents them from participating.  Medical conditions can be short or long-term.  Written verification from a health care practitioner can be obtained after social distancing orders are lifted.

If eligibility cannot be maintained using this flexibility, placements must be continued until June 30, 2020.

Nonminors ages 18 to 21 requesting entry or re-entry into Extended Foster Care must continue to be served.  A nonminor’s inability to meet participation requirements because of COVID-19 is not a reason to deny entry or reentry.  Forms must still be completed but they can be temporarily done without a face-to-face meeting.

Nonminor dependants who have housing disruptions, including living in a college dormitory, must be given assistance in finding a safe and appropriate housing option.  (ACL 20-45, April 18, 2020.)

Foster Care infant supplement payment eligibility

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued a clarification regarding infant supplement eligibility.  The infant supplement is an additional payment tied to AFDC-Foster Care, KIN-Gap and Approved Relative Caregiver (ARC) programs for children of parenting foster youth who live with their parent in foster care setting.  Several other categories of parenting youth who are living with their non-dependent child are also eligible including youth under delinquency jurisdiction who are living in foster care, non-minor dependents in Extended Foster Care, and youth in non-related legal guardianships who are receiving AFDC-FC. All eligible teens and non-minor dependents must be regularly screened for current or impending parenthood.

An infant supplement payment is given to the youth’s caregiver.  Non-minor dependents living in a Supervised Independent Living Placement receive their payment directly.  Infant supplements are to be used only for the care and supervision of the child of the eligible parent.  The supplement is paid on behalf of the parent who has primary physical custody of the child.  (ACIN I-10-20, February 7, 2020.)

COVID-19 placement preservation guidance

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has issued guidance to on meeting the placement preservation needs of children and nonminor dependents in out-of-home placements where a child or caregiver is exposed to COVID-19.

When there is exposure to COVID-19 but circumstances do not require hospital admission, children should be cared for at home.  Children who are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been exposed to COVID-19 should not be relocated or issued a 14-day notice.  The fact that a child has been exposed to or tests positive for COVID-19 is not in and of itself a reason for placing the child into group care.  The child welfare system must prioritize placement preservation.  However, children in congregate care should continue to be reunified with their family or moved into home-based care setting as appropriate.

For any requests for unplanned discharge or 14-day notice for a child, families and facilities should consider all alternatives to maintain the child in the home, including relocating the children to other bedrooms, units or homes on the property, hiring additional temporary staff, requesting additional resources from the placing agency, or arranging additional support from community partners or agencies.  If a placement change is unavoidable, counties should first consider home-based alternatives, including reunification, extended home visits, or emergency placements.

Caregiver exposure or illness is not a reason in and of itself for moving a child.   When a health professional recommends that a child or caregiver be quarantined, the county or Foster Family Agency should work with the caregiver to develop an emergency plan for needs such as food delivery, medication delivery, telehealth consultation, and mental health services.  If the child is in a facility, the county should assist with the provider’s emergency plan.

Children’s residential care provides should establish health screening protocols for new admissions, children returning from being off the premises, and staff who enter and exit the facility each day.  The facility can request that the county provide COVID-19 screening.

If a congregate care facility believes a child in their care may be at high-risk for COVID-19, the provider should seek a telehealth consultation to determine if the child’s placement in congregate care is a health risk and whether an alternative placement is needed.

CDSS recommends that county placing agencies ensure that each child in a congregate care setting have a COVID-19 emergency plan.

Counties and service providers are reminded that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) remains in effect and all ICWA requirements must be met.  Counties should contact local tribes and any tribes where they have placements to determine whether tribes have changed their procedures in response to COVID-19.  For an Indian child, any placement change must be made in accordance with ICWA. (ACL 20-33, March 31, 2020.)