Important COVID-19 Information
Updates will be posted regularly.
Please read this article about the risks for children in Cook County protective custody during the shutdown of services (March 19, 2020). Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Plan For At-Risk Kids Remains Unclear
Advocacy From a Distance
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. As of March 17, CASA of Cook County 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 a lot of information below 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 Advocate 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! Call the CASA office at 312-433-4928, or reach out to your supervisor via their cell or email.
CASA Volunteers can be a support to foster 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.
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, have they 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.
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.
Meal Support for Families
ALL CPS district schools will offer free meals for students. You do not have to be a CPS student. Families can pick up meals outside of their nearest CPS school – they DO NOT need to pick up meals at their child’s school of attendance; meals can be picked up at any CPS school.
Meals will be available starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020 from 9am – 1pm.
Any student (district school, charter school, options school, etc.) can access meals at the location that’s closest to them.
Families can find their nearest CPS school at CPS.edu/map.
Each child in the household will receive a food bag which will contain three days of breakfast and lunch meals.
Select charter school locations will also offer meals; a link to those locations can be found here.
The CPS Office of Teaching and Learning will provide grade-level activity packets for PreK-12th grade that include non-digital and digital activities for students. Information is also available for students and families at cps.edu/coronavirus.
Updates and contact information:
For additional information and the latest updates, families should visit cps.edu/coronavirus.
Families with questions about meals and other family services can call the CPS Command Center at 773-553-KIDS (5437) between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Important COVID-19 Information for CASA Volunteers (March 16, 2020):
We thank you for your efforts during this tumultuous time and for what you do best, not only during a crisis but daily on behalf of children, which is to work together and support each other for the greater good.
As a highly valued member of the CASA of Cook County family, our highest concern is for your health, safety, and well-being. We urge you to take good care of yourself to the very best of your ability—so that we can serve the children who count on us.
As we continue to monitor the effects of the coronavirus (COVID–19) and its impact on all of our lives, we have been planning numerous alternative ways we can support you in your service to children and families, as they will continue to need our support, especially during trying times.
As you know, many activities and events have been canceled out of an abundance of caution and care for our health and safety. While it may not be prudent for volunteers to meet in person with children at this time, please replace the visit with a phone call, so that the communication with children continues, if possible. I also encourage you to consider sending a handwritten letter or card.
For specific guidance about how volunteers can effectively and safely stay in touch with children, please review this helpful information: National CASA/GAL Guidance for Safely Staying in Touch with Children.
Please note that court hearings in Cook County have been discontinued for the next 30 days. Your Advocate Supervisor will be in touch with you about next steps. Thank you for service, dedication, and commitment to the children of Cook County.
Bonita Carr, Ed.D.