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.)