Adolescent Health Working Group’s (AHWG’s) goal is to help maintain the health/safety of youth during a pandemic. To that end, we have developed a list of best practices and recommendations for nonprofits and public agencies. We will continue to coordinate with stakeholders (youths, parents, foster and adoptive parents, caseworkers, youth advocates, judges, and others) to fine-tune recommendations.
Broad Effects of COVID-19
On March 19, the governor of California ordered a statewide shelter in place. New York state followed a day later. In California, 99% of K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, have shut down temporarily or have moved instruction online. Most schools remain closed in the fall semester. Many young people do not have homes to return to. The working poor are struggling to find childcare. Child welfare providers scramble to maintain services amidst the slowdown of courts and nonprofits temporarily halting programs/services. Foster youth continue to require acute care related to trauma and abuse, and many parents require ongoing treatment for substance use and mental health.
Summary of Recommendations
Child welfare programs must continue to provide essential services during a pandemic. Organizations and agencies will need to actively communicate with their staff as new updates develop around public health and safety, but also relay updates about services to partners and clients. While all stakeholders should continue to assess each individual’s comfort level in carrying out essential duties, organizations and agencies must come up with plans to keep their services running to serve vulnerable youth.
AHWG has developed these community guidelines as a living document. While working with our partners, we will continue to review, modify, and adopt new ideas. Below is a summary.
- Prioritize digital services and bolster access.
- Maintain provider and client interface (whether digitally or in-person).
- Offer immediate training and guidance to staff to minimize health risks.
- When possible, reduce the caseload of providers in order to maximize efforts to maintain minimum care for clients.
- Minimum care should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Services will need to be customized.
- Maintain social distancing as set by health experts.
- Reroute non-essential community funding to address the immediate needs of foster youth and their caregivers.
- Collaborate with the judiciary, nonprofits, colleges, foster parents, and other providers to create a systems-linked safety net.
- Explore local mutual aid models.
How You Can Help
Your support can make a profound difference in this work. Below are several ways that you can contribute to this work:
- Do you have recommendations for the guidelines? Let us know! Please contact Adam Chang by emailing [email protected].
- Share this with local nonprofits and agencies that work with you. Click here to download our handout on the impact of COVID-19 on child welfare services. Click here to download the guidelines as a pdf.
- Let us know if we can support your work. If you want to partner on addressing the needs of your community, please email Adam Chang by emailing [email protected].
- Join our email list to keep up to date with our work on this project.
Why This Work Is Needed
Strategies of the Federal Government to combat COVID-19 continue to clash with the efforts of counties and states, where many face difficult decisions with minimal guidance. Many states have implemented strategies to limit community spread of COVID-19. However, these broad protocols to shelter in place have had significant impacts on foster youth. We are partnering with nonprofits and public agencies to address COVID-19 and ensure the safety of foster youth who face new threats due to this pandemic. At this stage, local governments should review the innovative efforts of other counties and states in order to adopt their own plans. This document invites partners to engage with us to develop community plans of action by creating linkages between local government, nonprofits, families, colleges, school districts, providers, and the judiciary. The plan aims to bolster grassroot-level organizing by providing a roadmap (whereby neighboring counties could explore cohesive planning and collectively apply pressure) to guide state government into new policies that will continue to protect foster youth beyond this pandemic.
In 2017, about 442,995 children were in foster care across the U.S. As of 2018, nearly 60,000 foster youth reside in California. The National Youth in Transition Database reports that 27% of 21-year-olds had experienced homelessness within the past two years.
- On March 16, seven Bay Area Counties (San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Contra Costa, and Alameda) ordered its residents to shelter in place.
- These seven counties have 4,882 youth in foster care (2018 data).
Who We Are
Adolescent Health Working Group (AHWG) improves health equity so that all youth ages 11 to 24 in California and beyond have unimpeded access to comprehensive, youth-centered, and culturally-based healthcare.
AHWG brings together a coalition of youth-serving providers who are leaders in their field and young people and caregivers with lived-experiences to create innovative resources, training opportunities, peer-to-peer networks, and leadership roles related to harm reduction and policy improvements in the areas of sexual health, mental health, and substance use.