In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, children and families are struggling to make it through each day, one day at a time. Many of our families, already engaged with the child welfare system prior to COVID-19, will have an even more difficult time than the average family.
Fortunately, CASA volunteers can still be strong supporters and advocates for the children they are appointed to and their families, while still observing social distancing and self-quarantining protocols. CASA SHaW, in conjunction with CASA of New Jersey, has suspended all in-person visitations, though virtual visits are encouraged to provide consistency and support to your CASA child during this time of uncertainty. There is alot of information in the following document that we hope will be helpful for you both as an advocate and in your own lives. Please take a moment to review and be sure to connect with your case supervisor with any questions you may have or if you are seeking a specific resource we did not include. Remember we are still here to support you! Your Advocate Supervisor is still available via their mobile device or email.
CASA Volunteers can be a support to resource and biological parents during normal times, and this situation is no different. Volunteers are encouraged to check in with caretakers regularly as a form of support and to lend a listening ear. Parents may be struggling with distance learning school work, children’s lack of traditional routine or lack of services that support our children (therapy, visitations, after school activities, etc) All of these things may cause trauma reactions for children that already have a history of trauma. Caretakers and CASA’s should be aware of this and have behavioral management tools to support youth if needed. If a child experiences a true mental health crisis, please instruct the caretaker to call the Mobile Crisis Response at 877-652-7624.
- To support a child and their family, when making weekly check in calls, inquire about items such as:
- Health of all household members -- physical and mental
- How are school/distance learning assignments being completed? What was sent by the district/teacher? Is the teacher available via email to help, if needed? Could the CASA assist virtually?
- What is the family doing to keep busy daily?
- Is anyone in the household still working outside the home?
- Has the child/children had any issues behaviorally since being home?
- If the child’s visitation has been suspended due to COVID-19, have they been able to stay in touch with their parent/sibling(s) by phone?
- Is the household having any other challenges? (Financial, shortage of food, childcare for healthcare workers/first responders, etc.)
- Are there upcoming non-urgent medical/dental appointments for the child/children, and if so, has the Division been consulted to determine whether these appointments can be postponed?
- Does the caretaker have supportive individuals they are relying on right now to stay sane and healthy?
Advocates must remember that advocacy for a child is holistic and is always much wider than the child themselves. Please be sure to make phone contact with anyone else involved with the child’s case during this time to determine what their status is currently in relation to the child in question (if services are suspended, being offered remotely, etc.) This includes contact with biological parents, if the child is not currently in their custody. Be sure to make contact and help connect them with needed resources they may be seeking - the same as you would the child’s current caretaker.
Some suggested common resources that are operating in a modified way to meets crucial needs in our community during the COVID-19 crisis are:
NJ Child Abuse Hotline: Be alert and keep an eye out for signs of abuse and neglect, even more than usual, because abuse and neglect have been shown to increase during times of crisis/natural disasters. If you suspect child abuse and/or neglect, call the NJ Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-NJ ABUSE as soon as possible and alert your Advocacy Supervisor.
Being quarantined at home is not always safe. New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1 (800) 572-SAFE (7233) 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline provides confidential access to domestic violence information and services, including crisis intervention, referral, and advocacy. Bilingual and accessible to the deaf and hearing impaired.
New Jersey Department of Health: Learn what precautions you can take about the Coronavirus. Call the NJ Coronavirus & Poison Center Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or 1-800-962-1253 if using an out-of-state phone line. Trained healthcare professionals are standing by to answer your call 24/7 or visit www.nj.gov/health
Atlantic Health Systems Hotline: Atlantic Health System is launching a COVID-19 public hotline designed to assist members of the community who are concerned that they or a loved one may have been exposed to or have symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Nurse Screening Hotline is staffed by trained Atlantic Health System nurses who will triage calls from patients and help guide their next steps in seeking care. Callers with clinical symptoms of concern or travel/exposure concerns will be connected with a physician to assist in evaluation and triage. The hotline will initially operate seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. beginning March 11, at 862-260-3199.
Hunterdon Healthcare: Hunterdon Healthcare has created a hotline for the community to call in with questions regarding Coronavirus. The Hunterdon Healthcare COVID Hotline can be reached by calling 908-788-6440. The hotline will be open seven days a week, 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Even though we are physically apart, virtual communities keep people connected and build relationships every day. We hope that this will continue to hold true under these stressful conditions.