How should foster parents prepare if they contract COVID-19 with foster youth in their care?

The Play

How should foster parents prepare if they contract COVID-19 with foster youth in their care?

Who Can do this

Foster parents, social workers and child welfare staff working with resource families.

Cost

May vary depending on the cost of disinfecting or sanitizing products, and transportation.

The Play

1) Preparedness: Have a COVID-19 contingency plan ready.

This contingency plan can be developed together with the social worker, foster parents, and foster youth:

  • Identify a Circle of Support with trusted friends and/or family members who can be listed as an emergency contact, help take care of foster youth while foster parents are sick, and/or stay in the foster home providing care for the sick parents.

“A Circle of Support is a group of people that a parent or caregiver can call upon to provide short- or long-term child care in case they become sick, or have other complications which restrict them from caring for their child.” Source: COVID-19 Planning for Families and Children, State of Alaska.

  • Choose an option for care in case foster parents contract COVID-19, based on the following considerations:

    • Identify members of the household who may have an increased risk for severe illness.

    • Discuss if youth requires close supervision (i.e., special needs, medical diagnosis, ongoing medication), and choose the best option that will meet foster youth needs and keep them safe.

    • If available, identify a room in your house that can be used to separate sick household members from others.

    • Discuss foster parents’ capacity to take time off and provide care if they get COVID-19.

    • In cases where a single person fosters youth, or in cases where one foster parent is sick and the other foster parent does not have the flexibility to take care of foster youth full time, a joint decision between both foster parents and youth should be made for youth to stay with a trusted secondary care provider.

  • Have a discussion with the foster children themselves about this plan if they are of an age when they can understand.

2) Prevention: Practice everyday preventive actions at home.

To prevent anyone from contracting COVID-19 in the foster home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidance on how to protect yourself and others:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

  • Avoid close contact with other people, especially those who don’t live in your household.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.

  • Cover coughs and sneezes.

  • Routinely clean and disinfect highly touched areas, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, etc. Use soap and water first to remove dirt and impurities on the surface, then use an EPA-registered household disinfectant to kill germs.

3) Contingency plan execution: Options of care for foster youth when foster parent contracts COVID-19.

The contingency plan will depend on whether:

For youth staying in the home with the sick parent or caregiver:

If the youth will stay in the home with you (the parent or caregiver who is sick), you should:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol and rub your hands together until they are dry.

  • Try to stay 6 feet away from the youth, if possible and if safe.

  • Wear a cloth face covering if you are in a room where the youth may come into contact with you.

Note that cloth face coverings should not be placed on, children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, and/or anyone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.

  • Increase ventilation by:

    • Exchanging air in the room with air from outside (opening windows and doors, creating a draft, having fans that push air out, etc.), and/or

    • Removing viral particles from the air with filters (portable HEPA filters, upgrading the heat and air conditioning system to an air filter grade of MERV 13 or higher, reversing energy efficiency settings for ACs that minimize taking air from the outside).

  • When you need to bring items to the youth, disinfect the items before giving them to the child. However, do not disinfect food when you need to bring food to the youth.

  • If possible, the youth should stay away from people who are at higher-risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

  • Watch for symptoms, both for youth and foster parents. Youth’s temperature should be checked twice a day and symptoms should be watched, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, or symptoms specific to children.

  • If the youth does develop symptoms, inform their social worker, call their healthcare provider for medical advice, and follow the steps for caring for someone who is sick.

For youth staying outside the home with a temporary caregiver:

If the youth will stay outside of the foster home with a temporary caregiver, the new caregiver should help the youth to quarantine and do the following:

  • The youth should stay inside the caregiver’s home until 14 days after their last close contact with the sick parent.

  • Watch for symptoms, both for youth and foster parents. Youth’s temperature should be checked twice a day and symptoms should be watched, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, or symptoms specific to children.

  • If possible, the youth should stay away from people who are at higher-risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

  • If the youth does develop symptoms, inform their social worker, call their healthcare provider for medical advice, and follow the steps for caring for someone who is sick.

  • The caregiver should then quarantine for 14 days after the last day the caregiver had contact with the sick youth.

Outcomes

COVID-19 positive foster parents are able to be in medical insolation while having support to keep foster youth safe.

Resources