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COVID-19

Child Advocates' COVID-19 Response and Protocols

Like many of you, we are paying close attention to the evolving COVID-19 situation locally and nationwide. The safety of our children, our volunteers and our staff is of the utmost importance. We are determined to do our part while also continuing to fulfill our critical mission. We are adjusting our practices and protocols to prioritize safety while still supporting our essential advocacy for children in need. As the situation evolves, this page will be updated to reflect the most recent information for our community.

 

Child Visits

For our volunteer advocates and staff, the following changes will be made to our standard child visit practices:

  • Any visits scheduled for today or this weekend should be postponed. Decisions regarding future visits will be made as information is received from the courts and CPS over the weekend.
  • Beginning today and thru at least March 31, we are suspending all visits to institutions and congregate care settings (this includes RTCs, hospitals, jails, etc.).
  • Beginning today and thru at least March 31, we are suspending all travel outside Harris County.
  • These restrictions will remain in effect thru March 31 and we will reevaluate and communicate with our volunteers and community again before that time.
  • If volunteers need to self-quarantine or do not feel comfortable visiting their children, they should let their AC know as soon as possible. The AC will complete an exception form to document the reason the visit did not occur.
  • If a child is not going to be seen per policy, there should be contact via phone or FaceTime until face-to-face visits are resumed. The contact will be documented.
  • If a child is not going to be seen in person per our policies, we require regular contact via phone or FaceTime (or a similar video conferencing tool) during the hiatus of in-person visits.

The fear and anxiety that many of us are feeling may only be compounded for the children and youth we serve who have also been affected by trauma, and may trigger trauma-associated thoughts/behaviors in/from the child or create additional tension in the child’s home or placement. Therefore it is vital to have eyes on the children we serve in any way possible to help them stay calm and connected. Not seeing a child in these most stressful, difficult times when connections are most valuable could undo all of the work done to create a relationship. We therefore encourage the volunteer to maintain regular contact with the child either through the use of Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime (or other non-video tools if needed), especially where kids are in congregate care settings, such as shelters or RTCs. We are working to ensure that the facilities where our children are housed can accommodate more frequent phone or video contact.

 

Court Hearings, Meetings
The courts we work in are not holding in-person hearings for the time being. Each court has their own plans for handling hearings and determining when they will resume in-person hearings. Child Advocates is receiving regular updates from the courts and each staff advocacy coordinator is communicating with their advocate volunteers to inform them of the plan for any upcoming hearings.
 

Trainings, Events, Info Sessions & Other Group Activities

We know that our best source of new volunteers is the recommendation of a current volunteer advocate, and we still have big goals for recruitment this year in order to help the thousands of children in Harris County who need us. So we want our current volunteers to know that we’re equipping ourselves to continue recruiting. 

 

We are currently evaluating all future group activities and events for our children, volunteers and supporters. We will make timely, appropriate decisions prioritizing the safety of our community and will immediately inform all affected by any decisions to postpone or cancel activities.

As of 3/18/2020

  • All remaining March orientation dates cancelled. 
  • Orientation this month will be offered online. Click here for details.
  • Our Spring Luncheon on March 26 has been cancelled.
  • Our Children's Easter Egg Hunt on March 28 has been cancelled.
  • The McDonald's Houston Children's Festival on April 3&4 has been postponed.
  • The Pull for Kids Classic on May 2 has been postponed.

Stay Informed

We encourage all of our volunteers, staff and supporters to stay informed and protect themselves and others. As this is ongoing, we will make any needed updates to our protocol on this webpage, and will inform our staff and volunteers of urgent changes via email.

 

You can follow local updates and recommendations on the Harris County Public Health Department's COVID-19 website: http://publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Resources/2019-Novel-Coronavirus

Questions? Email us with any questions or concerns you have may have.

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