In light of continuing community spread and out of abundance of caution, CASA offices will be closed to the public and staff members will telecommute. We anticipate this will be the case through the end of April. Our number one priority at this time is the health of our staff, volunteers, the families we work with, and the overall community.
Executive Director Jennie Hill on CASA’s COVID-19 Response
At this time, we ask that CASA volunteers please refrain from transporting CASA children or engaging in in-person visitation with them until further notice. Instead, we will be issuing exceptions that allow for volunteers to conduct check-ins via internet video-conferencing technology as per National CASA/GAL Standards (Standards for Local CASA/GAL Programs 2012 version – Standard 7.E.5.f.).
“The CASA/GAL program assures that volunteers have regular and sufficient in-person contact with the child to enable them to have an in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact based recommendations to the court. The CASA/GAL volunteer shall meet in person with the child once every thirty (30) days at a minimum. An exception may be granted in the discretion of the CASA program staff; however, the decision to permit less frequent in person contact shall be documented as to the justification for and reasonableness of the exception.”
National CASA/GAL Standards (Standards for Local CASA/GAL Programs 2012 version – Standard 7.E.5.f.).
Volunteers may coordinate these exceptions with their Advocacy Supervisors. All scheduled court hearings within the next 30 days are being rescheduled and CASA staff will communicate those dates and times to volunteers as we receive them.
CASA will continue to consult with the courts and DHS around visitation with children and families to refine our processes. Please understand that the situation and our response will continually evolve as new information and recommendations are released. It is crucial that volunteers stay in contact with their Advocacy Supervisors to stay up-to-date.
CASA Event Postponements
Springtime is affectionately dubbed “event season” at CASA of Oklahoma County. We have three major events that typically take place during this time of year – our fundraisers “Energy for Children” and “Game On with CASA,” as well as our volunteer appreciation event “Cheers to our Volunteers.” All three events are being postponed. Energy for Children will be cancelled until 2021’s event. Game On is tentatively set to be moved to June 11. Dates may be subject to additional changes if social distancing is extended. Cheers to our Volunteers will be held September 26, 2020.
CASA Training and Support
CASA is continuing to train new volunteers for children in foster care and we have moved this training to a virtual classroom setting. Now may be a great time to train to become a CASA volunteer for those who prefer distance learning! Remote work, sheltering in place, and social distancing may allow for the extra few hours a week needed to complete CASA training. Interested parties can jump over to our Volunteer page to get started with the application.
Because CASAofOKCO advocacy services continue on, regardless of COVID-19 restrictions, we need your support as much as ever! Services are essential to foster children during this time to ensure they are safe and a permanent placement is found for them. Consider a monthly recurring gift of $40 to support the cost to recruit and train one new advocate for 2 foster youth this year!
CASA Service During Social Distancing
Despite the challenges, your CASA advocacy is incredibly important during this complex time. Please stay in touch with foster parents, DHS workers, service providers, parents and others involved in the cases. Be certain to observe confidentiality policies if you are working from home with family or colleagues also in your home.
The National and State CASA Associations are recommending weekly check-ins via video with our CASA children. These can be conducted over Facetime or Skype.
Note: If you do not have access to high speed internet or a smart phone that can make video calls, please let us know ASAP! We are working to determine what our best solutions are to provide technology assistance to volunteers. We want to ensure you have the resources you need to continue advocating effectively. Contact your Advocacy Supervisor for resources.
Ask normal questions along with the following:
- What is the daily schedule in the house right now?
- Are there any new stressors?
- How are services being handled at this time?
- How are parental/sibling visitations being handled during this time?
- How is everyone in the home feeling?
- Do you have any new needs due to school or work closures?
- Is child still attending daycare?
- What do changes to daily routine look like?
- How is he/she handling those changes? Have you noticed any behavior changes or changes in sleep/eating patterns?
- Has there been an interruption in services?
- When was the last face-to-face visit with parent(s)?
- Is child able to have phone/video visitation with parent(s) at this time? If so, how often? How does child respond?
- Is child healthy? Any symptoms or concerns to share?
- Is child current on well child checkups? Are any appointments/vaccinations being missed due to COVID-19 guidelines?
It is important to work to build consistency within the framework of this new normal. Try to schedule phone/video calls at the same time each week, if possible. Also, please be flexible with foster parents’ or biological parents’ schedules and try your best to work around them. We know everyone has a lot more on their plates these days!
If the child is home, try to break up the day in a predictable way. And of course, closely monitor the child’s health, especially if they are continuing in daycare.
As far as video visits and conversations with younger children, particularly 5 and under, we encourage families to try to keep to a consistent schedule and not expect too much from the child. They may only be able to handle about 20-30 seconds before they wander off or lose focus, and that’s okay. Don’t get discouraged by that. Try to engage kids by reading books or singing interactive songs. Since you’re at home, try using your pet to get kids’ attentions. Volunteers shouldn’t feel pressure to ask a lot of questions of very young kids on video calls beyond the basics; i.e., “Did you have fun at day care today?” It is more important to simply try to engage them for a few minutes in a meaningful way. They may even start talking on their own!
Engage in conversations like the following:
- How are things going at home?
- Tell me about what you are doing all day since you’re not in school
- Attempt to ease any concerns they may have around COVID-19
Encourage coming up with a daily schedule that includes learning and exercise opportunities. Also explore technology options the foster family may be open to in order to keep children in contact with parents and/or siblings.
If families seem to be having a hard time coming up with activities, help explore options with them. Advocacy Team Lead Nikki Kinsler passed along this great resource for finding online educational resources: AmazingEducationalResources.com
For iPhone users, Facetime is a natural choice for videoconferencing with foster youth. If the youth or foster parent/home has an available iPhone, the Facetime app is an intuitive and hassle-free solution.
If you or the other party does not have an iPhone, Skype is a wonderful cross-platform option. Users should navigate to their application store on their mobile device and download the free Skype app. Login, or create a new account to get started. Initiating a Skype call is easy – particularly if you choose to set it up as a meeting. Follow the steps below to set up a videoconference via the meeting option. Alternatively, you can add another user’s Skype username as a contact in the Skype app and initiate a phone call that way.
Another simple option that is available on your personal computer is Zoom. Simply download the Zoom application and login or create an account. You can quickly create a new meeting and invite your contact to the meeting via the “Invite” option at the bottom of the screen. You can then invite others to chat via email.
If you have any questions or concerns about videoconferencing with your CASA youth, please contact your Advocacy Supervisor for assistance.
Please note that video calls use a lot of bandwidth, so if you have a basic internet plan on your phone, you’d want to be connected to a wifi hotspot or other form of broadband internet. That way you don’t incur overages on your cell phone plan.