How to license homes while social distancing?

The Play

License new foster homes with minimal physical contact by conducting everything by email, phone, and video except fingerprinting and a single, brief in-person safety walkthrough.

Who Can Do This?

Anyone.

Cost

Minimal.

Timeframe

Immediate.

Difficulty

Depends on your current process.

The Problem It Solves

Some child welfare systems have paused licensing for some or all new families in order to limit in-person contact, because they mistakenly believe that federal regulations require the licensing process to be conducted in person. These delays mean losing homes, especially those of relatives, in a time when placement options are already severely limited.

How To Do This

  • Conduct the initial safety walkthrough over video. Licensors can identify safety concerns and make compliance plans over video, so families can address any issues.

  • Conduct interviews over phone or video. If families lack technology equipment, connect them with free Lifeline phone service and free Internet services. You may also be able to use federal funding to secure equipment for families.

  • Limit in-person visits to one final safety walkthrough of no longer than 20 minutes. After identifying and resolving safety issues over video, this final walkthrough can be brief and focused. For emergency relative placements, this visit can be combined with the placement visit, and any follow-ups can be conducted over video.

  • Prioritize in-home and community-based fingerprinting. Mobile Livescan units maximally reduce in-person time, allowing you to combine fingerprints with the safety walkthrough. Community-based fingerprinting sites like UPS Stores remain open as essential businesses and provide a stress-free, fast, environment for applicants to complete this requirement.

  • Eliminate or temporarily suspend other in-person requirements. If your process requires a medical evaluation, allow a medical professional to complete the paperwork based on patient records and without an in-clinic visit. Or expand your acceptance of evaluations to include telehealth visits.

Federal guidelines for IV-E eligible licensed homes do not require any in-person steps besides fingerprinting. If your child welfare system has a unique requirement, like tuberculosis tests, the pandemic is an opportunity to evaluate why you have such a unique requirement, and remove it.

Outcomes

States with contracts for community-based fingerprinting sites report the same processing times as before the pandemic.

States that require tuberculosis tests and/or medical physicals—two tests that require in-person visits to clinics—report that these are the most difficult requirements for families to complete during the pandemic.

From March to May 2020, the child welfare systems using the online tool Binti for foster parent licensing, which collectively serve approximately 17% of the nation’s foster youth, have:

  • 2,715 online training orientations completed.

  • 3,560 online applications filled out, e-signed and submitted to agencies by families applying to be foster/adoptive families.

  • 1,154 families approved by agencies to be caregivers.

  • 1,798 families renewed their yearly approval.

  • 115,171 online case notes submitted by social workers.

Who’s Already Doing This?

Rhode Island has continued licensing homes, limiting in-person contact to a single 20-minute walkthrough that includes using a mobile fingerprinting machine to fingerprint all adult household members.