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COVID-19 Update for Local CASA Programs

KCN COVID-19 Update

As we all attempt to stay on top of the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, the Kentucky CASA Network would like to provide some guidance and resources for local CASA programs in the Commonwealth. We will be updating this page periodically as new information comes in. The KCN knows that the amount of news and information about this coronavirus can be overwhelming and we are doing our best to sort through and share the most relevant information for our CASA programs. If you have any questions or would like to see additional guidance, please contact us.

 

View the latest list of news articles and resources for CASA staff, board members, and volunteers below.

 

All-Program Calls:

The KCN will have calls every Friday at 1:30pm ET throughout May and then transitioning to bi-monthly from June to December. The purpose of these calls will be to collectively share how things are going with your programs and cases, what you are hearing, and any resources that you can share with your colleagues. The KCN will give an update on what we are hearing statewide. Information about connecting to these calls has been shared directly with local program directors.

 

General COVID-19 Information:

Kentucky COVID-19 Website

For Kentucky-specific information regarding COVID-19, visit http://kycovid19.ky.gov/.

National CASA/GAL Guidance

A message from National CASA/GAL CEO Tara Perry with online training opportunities and guidance for safely staying in touch with children. Also see this message from Tara Perry.

Statement Regarding KY Government Services

Secretary of the Executive Cabinet J. Michael Brown has issued a memorandum regarding in-person government services to the public. You can view the memorandum here.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

President Trump has signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law, only a few hours after Senate approval. While this new legislation provides emergency federal funding for, among other things, COVID-19 testing, nutrition assistance, and unemployment compensation benefits, its two most prominent sections institute an emergency expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act and introduce a new emergency paid sick leave entitlement for certain employee absences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Stoll Keenan Ogden has developed FAQs for clients to help explain these two new laws.

Guidance Regarding Caseworker Visits from the Children’s Bureau

As you know, section 422(b)(17) of the Social Security Act (the Act) requires that caseworkers visit children in foster care on a monthly basis. The policy, as currently posted, prohibits using videoconferencing for the purpose of meeting that requirement, and requires that such visits must be held face-to-face. See Child Welfare Policy Manual (CWPM), §7.3, #8.

The current public health challenges and guidelines require a reconsideration of that policy. While it is imperative that caseworkers continue to ensure the well-being of children in care, that imperative must be balanced against the health of caseworkers, children in care, and all of the people with whom they come into contact. The monthly caseworker visit requirement remains in place, but we are modifying our policy to permit such visits to be conducted by videoconferencing in these current extraordinary circumstances. The amended CWPM question and answer will be sent out on the Children’s Bureau list serves and updated online in the coming days.

 

How and What to Work on When Working Remotely:

Many programs across the state are taking extra precautions and promoting social distancing with allowing staff to work remotely. We are very fortunate that modern technology allows us the opportunity to work from virtually anywhere. Optima is a great example of this. Since the vast majority of the Volunteer/Advocate Supervisor role is maintaining contact with advocates (supervision) and documentation of this contact (for most programs in Optima), this can be done from home.

Here are few suggestions for Advocate Supervisory Staff working remotely:

  1. Contact your volunteers as usual either by phone, text or email. Make sure you are asking them how they are feeling and doing during this time. Try to ease any concerns they may be having regarding their ability to fulfill their roles and responsibilities.
  2. Update Optima. This is a great time to ensure that all your data and information is entered into Optima and is up to date.
  3. Upload those monthly visitation exception forms as there will be plenty during over the next month or so!
  4. If you have a KCN and/or VOCA Quality Assurance or Financial and Programmatic site visits coming up in the next few months this is a great time to ensure all your case and volunteer files are complete.

See below for some additional guidance:

Optima Updates

In addition to taking advantage of this time away from court and meetings to update your hard-copy and Optima case files, there is an opportunity to work on revising your Lookup Tables for activity categories in Contact Logs to better align with VOCA reporting categories. Contact Margaret if you are interested in learning more about using Eligibility Status tags and Contact Logs to better align your Optima data collection with your VOCA reporting requirements. 

Recruitment Planning

Be sure to register for Programmatic Webinar #1 next Thursday, March 26 from 2:00-3:30pm ET, when we will review the contents of a totally online volunteer recruitment toolkit! During this time of working from home, you can use the planning tools in Section 1 of the toolkit to strategize your future outreach approach. Please contact Margaret if you would like to set up a program-specific consultation on using the toolkit contents and/or pursuing online recruitment strategies.

QA File Audits

Take advantage of the time away from court to self-audit your volunteer and case files using these checklists.

National CASA Annual Survey Deadline Extended

In consideration of the COVID disruptions, National CASA has extended the annual survey deadline to April 30

 

Advocate Training Updates and Recommendations

In-Person Meetings and Training

In an effort to do our part to “flatten the curve” (that is, to slow exponential growth), the KCN is recommending all in-person training sessions be suspended for the foreseeable future. National CASA/GAL has released a plan for the Flex Learning/Guided Curriculum to be delivered virtually. This will be a temporary adaptation to the curriculum to accommodate the crisis period. Margaret participated in the webinar with National CASA this week and programs should feel free to contact her for further questions around this guidance.

You may want to familiarize yourself now with virtual meeting options such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. It would be a good idea to practice hosting some meetings with other staff so you will know what to expect when you are leading a virtual training session. The KCN has prepared guidance on setting up and hosting a Zoom Meeting; additionally, Zoom has its own set of training videos. For any additional help with Zoom, contact Brittany.

Pre-Service Training – Guided Learning vs. Flex Learning

We encourage you to carry on your recruiting and training efforts. As more and more people are homebound, you will have more opportunities to engage with people in your community online. You may consider utilizing this unique period to think outside the box as you virtually interact with people. See below for information about Guided Learning vs. Flex Learning for your pre-service training needs.

Guided Learning is the relatively new version of what had previously been the "Independent Study Edition" of the pre-service training curriculum. Because of COVID, Margaret has switched to Guided Learning for the pre-service training she is currently facilitating with Lexi Foster at CASA of Southern Kentucky, which they started via Zoom with 4 volunteers today. Please contact her with questions about this format if you have a small (<5 people) training class.

Flex Learning is the hybrid in-person and online training format that now will be offered in a totally online format using the Moodle online learning platform for 15 hours and live video conferencing for 15 hours. This format costs $75/course, and short-term funding is available through National CASA for this fee and video conferencing software. Each of the five sessions is 3 hours of Moodle work and 3 hours of facilitated video conference, and National recommends completing each session over the course of a week (open Moodle on a Friday, request completion by the following Tuesday, and facilitate video conference on Thursday before starting the cycle again).

  • Flex Learning is best for classes larger than 4 people (up to 20 people). Guided Learning only works for small classes (fewer than 5 trainees, where either in-person or virtual small group work does not add value because the groups are too small for meaningful interaction).  
  • Both formats include 5 sessions/modules centered on case studies.
  • Both formats include live opportunities for comprehension checks, screening, and discussion between facilitators and trainees.
  • Both formats require you to complete a National CASA form including upload of an email documenting KCN pre-approval of your proposed format, and you must give proposed start dates for the Flex Learning format. Find the Flex Learning request form here and the Guided Learning request form here.
  • Priority will be given for Flex Learning requests to programs whose in-person trainings have been disrupted by COVID; only a limited number of Moodles is available at any given time, and the fully online Flex Learning format will be available starting this Friday, March 20.
  • The Flex Learning curriculum most closely mirrors the content and sequencing of the traditional in-person pre-service curriculum. Facilitators new to Flex Learning will be invited to a National CASA small group curriculum orientation, and mentoring/shadowing as well as access to a "sandbox version" of the Moodle course also is available by emailing training@nationalcasagal.org.
In-service opportunities

Encourage your volunteers to catch up on in-service training through online options! You might consider offering a virtual "book club" forum for your volunteers to come together with you and discuss a specific in-service training.

 

Contact the Kentucky CASA Network

KCN staff will occasionally be at the office but are primarily working from home, so it will be best to contact KCN staff via email or cell phone. Directors have been provided KCN staff cell phone numbers. See below for how to contact each person.

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