CASA of Allegheny will modify its work practices in response to the spread of COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus. Never before in the history of our agency have we had to take such steps to assure volunteer and child safety.
These changes are implemented as of May 15 and will continue indefinitely.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, CASA of Allegheny’s primary concern remains to ensure the well-being of children and families CASA serves. National CASA/GAL requires volunteers to visit the child in person once every 30 days at a minimum. If a determination is made that a child should be visited by CASA, the volunteer and/or Case Manager must agree to engage in social distancing, must wear a mask, and conduct the home visit outdoors, if possible. CASA will provide PPE for any volunteer and/or staff member that requests it. For any child who cannot be visited in person during this time, we are documenting the exception in compliance with National CASA/GAL’s standard and will discuss a plan to contact and connect with the child in another fashion such as a video meeting or phone call.
We are in communication with PA CASA, our local court, and Children and Youth agency to guide our protocol during this time as it relates to handling visits with children and families.
We will continue to adapt and be responsive as information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Governor of Pennsylvania, our local court, and Children and Youth agency is updated. We won’t stop our advocacy initiative to ensuring children are safe during this time.
Here are the steps we are taking to keep our staff and the children we advocate for as safe as possible while also fulfilling the CASA mission:
Please note that an increase in infection rates can result in a change of status and associated guidelines.
- Every effort will be made to ensure that our children are safe and thriving in their environment. The relationship between the volunteer and the child shall be maintained as we move forward. In the event that concern arises regarding a CASA child, the volunteer shall consult with the CASA staff as well as the appropriate authority. Volunteers are trained to report any incident of child abuse or neglect, or any situation in which the CASA volunteer has reason to believe that a child is in imminent danger to the appropriate authorities and CASA supervisory staff.
- Volunteers who feel safe in conducting in-person visits will do so in consultation with CASA Staff/Supervisors. Safety measures must be maintained by:
- Practicing social distancing
- Everyone must wear a mask
- Visits shall occur outside in an open space when at all possible
- Ongoing communication and decisions regarding cases will be conducted on an individual case basis. Volunteers will ensure that their CASA child continues to receive the court's recommended services on a consistent basis and will continue to participate in meetings and hearings either in person or virtually. Some things that we consider when assessing conducting an in-person visit:
- There is a concern regarding the child that cannot be assessed virtually
- The ability of other providers to conduct visits
- The health of the volunteer advocate
- The health of the child and the child's caretaker(s)
COVID-19 has made it more challenging for CASA volunteers to assess each child’s safety and wellbeing and navigate through these uncertain times. As schools and many community activities temporarily stop, many children will spend more time lonely, stressed, or even burdened by added financial strain their families will endure. The need for CASA advocacy is more important than ever. CASA of Allegheny continues to strive to be a source of stability for children and families during this heightened time of stress and crisis. We are committed to remaining that constant in a child’s life. The needs of children won’t go away, and CASA is here to elevate their voices and make sure they are heard.
If you are wondering how you can help during this time, please consider volunteering your time or donating. A gift of $100 can support advocacy for one child for one month. Together, we can help protect children in crisis and protect their best foundation for the future: STABILITY.