Senators Urging Trump Administration to Issue Comprehensive Guidance to Ensure Children, Young People in the Child Welfare System Remain in Safe, Stable Housing and Have the Resources They Need During COVID-19 Outbreak
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and other colleagues in urging the Trump Administration to issue national guidance to child welfare agencies that are continuing to protect and support children during the COVID-19 outbreak. In a letter sent to Vice President Mike Pence and the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, the senators urged the administration to issue comprehensive guidance to ensure that youth have access to the full range of support services required to meet their educational, health, and housing needs, regardless of where they live.
Youth in the child welfare system reside in a variety of settings, ranging from foster family placements, to kinship or relative care, to congregate care, with each setting posing its own unique challenges to protecting youth from the spread of COVID-19. Yet, recent reports have shown that regardless of the placement setting, the spread of COVID-19 threatens the ability of these vulnerable youth to access much-needed educational, health, mental health and housing resources.
“As the nation rushes to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we are deeply concerned for the safety of over 450,000 children in the child welfare system. These youth are among the most vulnerable in our country and special care must be taken to assure their wellbeing,” the senators wrote.
In addition to urging the administration to issue guidance for child welfare agencies, the senators also called for answers on how the administration will continue to support kinship caregivers, many of whom are elderly relatives who face higher risk of developing complications from contracting COVID-19.
The senators are also requesting information on the administration’s plan to ensure child welfare agencies have an adequate and well-trained workforce and resources necessary to respond to the needs of families and children during this pandemic and its aftermath.
The letter is part of Senator Hassan’s ongoing efforts to support children as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads. Senator Hassan recently led her colleagues in urging the Office of Child Care at the Department of Health and Human Services to take additional steps to expand child care options for health care workers and others on the frontlines responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as provide critical guidance to child care providers to ensure that they are taking appropriate action to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 at centers that remain open. The bipartisan COVID-19 package that the president signed into law last week includes $3.5 billion in emergency funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant program. The package will also bring $82.47 million to New Hampshire to support education needs and $6.94 million to New Hampshire to support child care for frontline workers.
A copy of the senators’ letter can be read here and below.
Dear Vice President Pence and Commissioner Darling:
As the nation rushes to address the COVID-19 pandemic, we are deeply concerned for the safety of over 450,000 children in the child welfare system. These youth are among the most vulnerable in our country and special care must be taken to assure their wellbeing. We are pleased that the Administration for Children and Families has issued guidance to child welfare agencies urging them to work with universities to ensure that youth currently or formerly in care have access to housing, food, and health care during school closures. However, this issued guidance only addresses a small set of questions state and tribal child welfare programs are grappling with in response to the spread of COVID-19. State and tribal child welfare programs require detailed information regarding the Administration’s plan to help them protect the vulnerable youth in their care during this pandemic.
COVID-19 presents a unique and dangerous challenge to child welfare agencies across the country, as they must consider protecting the health and wellbeing of the youth in their care as well as members of their workforce. The child welfare system is not designed for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) social distancing recommendations. In order for caseworkers to avoid jeopardizing their own health, they may be inadvertently impeding the progress of their clients’ case plans by no longer being able to support in-person therapeutic services and family visitation. The detrimental impacts possible as a result of reduced interactions with caseworkers could be compounded by placement type. Youth in the child welfare system reside in a variety of settings ranging from foster family placements, to kinship care, to congregate care, with each setting posing its own unique challenges to protecting youth from the spread of COVID-19. Yet, recent reports have shown that regardless of the placement setting, the spread of COVID-19 threatens the ability of these vulnerable youth to access much needed educational, health, mental health and housing resources.
We urge the Administration to issue comprehensive guidance to states and tribes to ensure that youth placed in all setting types within the child welfare system remain stably housed and have access to the full range of support services required to meet their educational, health, and general case plan needs. In order to understand more about the steps that the White House Coronavirus Taskforce and the Children’s Bureau have taken and intend to take, we request a response to the following questions no later than April 6, 2020.
Child Welfare Workforce
We look forward to your prompt response.