Advocating for Children During a Health Crisis

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has rapidly evolved in recent weeks, and Allen County CASA is working to adjust our operations and best-practices in order to continue effectively advocating for the vulnerable children we serve, while taking precautions to protect our staff, volunteers, service providers, and the many other community stakeholders with whom we work.

In a time of unprecedented uncertainty for us all, it is critical that the most vulnerable among us, children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, do not fall through the cracks, and that their well-being is protected. This vulnerable population has already experienced multiple traumas in their lives, and Allen County CASA is committed to ensuring that their trauma is not compounded by abandonment when they need us the most. Together with our partners in the child welfare system, we are working to continue our advocacy, while simultaneously safeguarding the health of our staff and volunteers.

With some technology and creativity, CASA staff and volunteers can still be strong and consistent advocates for the children to whom they have been appointed, while maintaining social distancing and quarantine protocols. In light of guidelines which have been released from State and local Departments of Health and State and Local Courts, the following practices will guide our work until further notice. As this public health crisis continues to evolve, these guidelines will be updated.

  • All in-person visits will be discontinued until further notice. In order to continue our advocacy, CASAs are encouraged to check-in with their appointed children regularly, using whatever technology is available to them. Video-conferencing is the preferred method of communication, and the next best thing is talking on the telephone. Texting is great for staying connected, but should not replace regular video or telephone visits. Suggested platforms include FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo, and WhatsApp.
  • All meetings will take place remotely. All CASA staff are currently working primarily from home, and can be reached via email (please use the CONTACT FORM), or by office phone (phone messages are forwarded to our voice mail). Visitors to the Courthouse are restricted, and volunteers should not plan to attend hearings in-person at this time.
  • Most hearings are being vacated and rescheduled. When hearings do take place, we are requesting that the court accept the CASA’s participation by telephone. Regardless of the CASA’s participation in the hearing, a CASA Staff member or the CASA Attorney will be present to represent the CASA program and the best interests of the child/children. It is essential that all court reports continue to be submitted on time, in order to ensure that fact-based recommendations are made to the court. CASA volunteers should communicate with their supervisors regarding upcoming hearings.
  • We are continuing to recruit volunteers, and encourage anyone interested to reach out to us with questions and fill out an online application.

Being quarantined at home is not always safe. Crisis in health, mental health, domestic violence and child welfare may arise during this stressful time. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Indiana Department of Child Services operates a toll-free hotline (1-800-800-5556) for people to call and report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.

Additional Resources:

Supporting Kids During the Coronavirus Crisis

Overcoming Quarantine: How to Build a Curriculum for Home-Based Learning

How to Talk to Kids and Teens about the Coronavirus

CDC’s Recommendations for Discussing the Coronavirus with Children

Tips for Video Chatting with Young Children

Mental Health and Coping During a Pandemic