CASA of Southwest Michigan COVID-19 Response

CASA of Southwest Michigan COVID-19 Response, Policies, and Procedures

Updated May 29,  2020 at 10:00 am


ADVOCATE RESOURCES - CLICK HERE


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has continued to evolve since we first heard about it in the past few weeks.  Our primary concern is always for the wellbeing of the children, families, volunteers, and staff who are associated with CASA of Southwest Michigan.

 

While this is a time of uncertainty and fear for all of us, it’s likely that our children in foster care are suffering the most. Many of these children have experienced severe trauma and are currently separated from their loved ones. Over the next few days, weeks, and months, we will be particularly mindful of not compounding those traumas by abandoning our children when they need us the most. We promise to do our best to continue our advocacy, while also ensuring the safety of CASA of Southwest Michigan staff and volunteers.


There have been new guidelines about how we interact socially including the use of social distancing, minimizing participation in large gatherings, and changes in business operations. We continue to closely follow the evolution of COVID–19 and its potential impact on the operations of CASA of Southwest Michigan and the child welfare system. As things evolve, our operations may continue to change, so we appreciate your flexibility. 


  • NEW 5/29/20: The Berrien County Trial Court has begun Phase I of reopening. At this time, members of the public who have business in the Courthouse may attend to that business but will be screened. Hearings will be conducted allowing a maximum of 10 persons in the courtroom at a time. These hearings will also be conducted remotely and CASA Volunteers should continue to participate in hearings remotely.
  • CASA SWMI operations are continuing as normally as possible. While Jamie,  Trish and Lyndsey will primarily work from home for the foreseeable future, we are available to you at any time via email, telephone or video chat. We will check our office messages daily however, the best way to reach either of us is by cell or email. 
  • Face-to-face visits for your CASA child/ren are suspended until further notice. Please continue to virtually visit your child weekly, or more often if possible. Advocating for your child remotely is  challenging but necessary - these are scary times for all children, in  particular those who do not adapt to change well. This is particularly true for children who have suffered trauma. Please call, text, write, and facetime. We are happy to set up a Zoom meeting for you, this is a simple video chat platform. A few reminders regarding video conferencing with your child, please ensure that you are in a private location with no other people around and no recording may take place by either party on the call (audio or visual).
  • Court reports are still due on schedule, if a hearing will be held and we will work with you via email and Zoom to assist.
  • Monthly CASA reports will still need to be completed. Until we are able to have face to face visits, please reflect any remote visits with your child as a face to face visit by checking the "child visit" box and simply note in the comment section that it was a remote visit. 
  • Below please find some suggestions for talking with your child and their foster families about the virus provided by local therapist Cindy Bridgman:   
    • We have explained to children that the situation is nothing to fear and it is precautions to take so the sickness isn't shared.  Kind of like life jackets you wear on a boat ride.  You will hopefully never need them and just enjoy being on the boat, but if you end up in the water it's good to have protection.
    • One of the most helpful things for children is to keep them on a routine.  This includes some reading time, some writing and math time, some movie time, and a number of different times in the day for a lot of movement - preferably outdoors.
    • Another helpful hint is to have them engage in something that takes more than a day to complete, a model, a puzzle, a full game of Monopoly!  This helps them look forward for tomorrow!
    • We have instituted  a menu that lets kids choose means and also things they can prepare!
    • One more thing, with everyone at home, it's important for kids to feel a part of the family so let them take part in chores.
  • DHHS UPDATES: 
    • MDHHS Children's Service Agency: Covid-19 Update 4/30/2020
    • NEW 5/29: DHHS staff (but not Bethany or Samaritas)  are furloughed one day per week. Your worker will be off either on a Monday or Friday until further notice. 
    • In person visits by foster care workers and sibling visits continue to be suspended until further notice unless they are necessary for the health/safety of a child. Workers have been instructed to communicate by alternative means.
    • Reunification services (Families First, FRP, etc.) ARE considered essential services and can be implemented 
    • IL+ (group homes) homes must ensure the safety and health of youth in those facilities but are not required to conduct programs off site.
    • In person parent visits may occur as long as the following guidelines are met: All participants and their household members are healthy: screening is completed for all participants and their household members and  all answers are “no;" and the parents, the child placing agency and the child’s temporary caregiver all agree on the plan for visitation to safety occur. 



We encourage all of our volunteers, staff, and supporters to stay informed and protect themselves and others. Please continue to visit this page for updates.