UPDATES & RESOURCES REGARDING COVID-19

What can we help you with?

Texas CASA is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will be regularly updating this page with announcements and resources. For specifics on how this impacts your local CASA program, we recommend reaching out to your program directly. Find your local program.

Texas CASA Updates

CASA Standards Waivers Extended Through January 2021

During their September 2020 meeting, the Texas CASA Board of Directors determined that the three waivers established in response to COVID-19 will remain in place through at least January 2021. They will again be reviewed by the Program Services & Standards Committee at the January 2021 meeting. These waivers are in place to continue providing each local CASA program the discretion to determine when they can safely resume activities, as many factors contribute to those decisions that are subject to each different community.

As a reminder, the three statewide waivers are:

    • Virtual visits may substitute for required face-to-face visits;
    • Virtual training may substitute for required 10 hours of face-to-face training; and
    • Name-based criminal history checks may substitute for Fingerprint Based Checks (FBCs) temporarily while IdentiGO centers are closed. FBCs will have to obtained once it is safe to do so.

The primary consideration remains how to best advocate for the interest of children and families and provide information to the court (fulfill CASA’s role) while ensuring a safe environment for children, families, volunteers and staff.

The Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board has created a Guidance to Phased-In Visits document that provides extensive details to consider in an easy to understand and follow format as your program considers and weighs the grave health concerns to children, families and program members. Download the guide.

Additionally, the Regional Representatives have provided the below information to aid programs with vital information regarding advocacy activities:

  1. A release form or waiver that allows an individual to acknowledge risks involved from Dallas CASA; and
  2. Five documents constituting a “packet” from CASA of Travis County that includes: steps to assess program advocacy in light of program operations; a draft/initial list of questions and considerations for programs and their boards to assess their readiness; a flowchart temporary protocol in returning to face to face child visits; and surveys for volunteers and staff that will consider individual readiness.

View and download resources.

CPS protocol regarding Covid19 cases

Texas CASA has created a new tracking system for local programs to collect and submit information about COVID-19 cases affecting children and youth in care, in the circumstances in which CASA was not notified of the cases or exposure in a timely manner.

After being made aware of over 30 child placement facilities statewide that have reported exposure to or active cases of COVID-19, Texas CASA reached out to DFPS to better understand their protocols for ensuring the safety of children in foster care and received the following response: 

“DFPS appreciates CASA’s concern and wanted to let you know that we require residential care providers to report positive COVID cases so DFPS may assess, in consultation with medical health professionals, whether additional testing of children and youth in care or other action is needed at that operation… Of course for case specific inquiries, the CASA appointed to the case can work with the caseworker and the child on any medical questions, and should be informed if a youth on their caseload is impacted. Please let me know if this is not occurring, so that we can look into the situation.”

To ensure CASA is being informed of children and youth impacted in a timely manner, Texas CASA has set up a reporting system where programs can submit instances where CASA is not notified. If staff has not had success with case-specific inquiries with the CPS caseworker or being informed when a child served by CASA has been exposed to or contracted the coronavirus, please let us know through our new form here: https://covid19.texascasa.org/tracking  

 

TEXAS CASA & National CASA GUIDANCE ON RETURNING TO WORKPLACES AND SOCIAL DISTANCING DURING COVID-19


Governor Greg Abbott lifted many coronavirus stay-at-home orders and restrictions effective May 1, 2020. With this in mind, we anticipate that programs will be making decisions regarding return-to-work readiness and social distancing. As you consider next steps for your program, we strongly encourage you to maintain robust safety protocols to protect staff, volunteers, and the children and families you serve.

Texas CASA staff will continue to work remotely through the end of May and possibly longer, depending on public health recommendations. We recommend that local CASA programs also continue remote work and remote advocacy throughout the month of May and until further notice, in order to protect the health of children and families, staff, volunteers and our local communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, organizations should reopen only if they can ensure strict social distancing, proper cleaning and disinfecting requirements, and protection of their workers and customers; with vulnerable workers continuing to work from home. We’ve outlined our recommendations for CASA programs in the attachment below.

Read more: TEXAS CASA GUIDANCE ON RETURNING TO WORKPLACES AND SOCIAL DISTANCING DURING COVID-19

Read more: NATIONAL CASA RE-OPENING CONSIDERATIONS FOR CASA/GAL ORGANIZATIONS

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE TEXAS CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM: CASA’S ESSENTIAL ROLE


In the face of the turmoil and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas CASA and the 72 local CASA programs continue to be a major source of stability for children and families in the Texas child welfare system. The need for CASA advocacy is heightened in this time of stress and crisis. Together, we are amplifying and adapting our work to advocate for the best interest of children and families during the rapid changes faced by the system. We are dedicated to exceptional advocacy for children and youth, building positive adult connections for them, supporting families as they seek reunification or other permanency outcomes, and finding the best ways to do so while everyone in the system navigates new challenges.

Read more: THE CRITICAL ISSUES & CASA’S RESPONSIVE ADVOCACY.

Background Checks Centers Reopening with Reduced Hours

DFPS has been in close contact with IdentoGO and has provided a list of IdentoGo locations that have reduced operating hours and closures as of October 5. Reports will continue to be issued daily containing closure information as of 5pm the previous day.  We have provided the available information regarding dates of closures, expected re-open dates, closest IdentoGo facilities and operating hours. View the latest list.

Texas CASA is aware this is an ongoing situation and has made available two options for programs if they are unable to obtain the necessary background checks:

Option 1: A CASA program can temporarily substitute a name-based national criminal history check if they have volunteers ready to swear in and accept a case. This name-based check is what a CASA program previously purchased prior to Texas CASA’ fingerprint-based check (FBC) requirement. This temporary check would allow a volunteer to be assigned a case. See below the Resource section below for tips on virtual visits.

As soon as IdentoGO Centers reopen in your area, a FBC check is required on all newly added CASA board, staff and volunteers. A volunteer will only be allowed face-to-face visit with children following the completion of their FBC.

Option 2: A CASA program may suspend swearing in new advocates until this passes and IdentoGO Centers reopen.

Statewide & Child Welfare Updates

Statewide Mandates

Masks Now Required for Most Counties

The State of Texas now mandates that residents of most counties wear a mask covering the nose and mouth in public indoor and outdoor spaces, subject to a fine of up to $250.

A cloth face covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others – including the children and families we serve. Learn more.

CPS Updates

DFPS FAQ on Placements & COVID-19 Response

Several members of the Texas Legislature sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott and DFPS Commissioner Jamie Masters regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the Texas child welfare system. DFPS released their response to the letter addressing several of their concerns.

Guidance to Phased-In Visits

Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board has created an easy to follow guide to resuming CASA/GAL visits with children. The guide also includes practical safety practices and other resources. Additional Hill Country CASA has provided their COVID-19 Visitation Protocols for other local programs to use as a reference.

Download the Minnesota GAL guide.
Download the Hill Country CASA Visitation Protocols.

In-Person Parent/Child Visits & Sibling Visits May Resume

June 2, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all in many ways, but perhaps none more significant than the inability for our children in conservatorship to see their parent or sibling in person. As you may be aware many of the court orders requiring virtual visitation are set to expire or will expire in June. To that end, unless a court continues to order otherwise, or it is determined unsafe, in-person parent child visits and sibling visits will be resuming during the month of June.

Read the full statement on the DFPS website.

CPS Resumes In-Person Visits as of May 11, 2020

Beginning May 11, 2020, DFPS directed CPS caseworkers across the state to resume seeing children in person for face-to-face monthly contact, unless a court order is in place prohibiting such contact. This should begin for the next scheduled visit for CPS caseworkers. Caseworkers will be using personal protective equipment and maintaining social distancing during their visits, and will be transparent with questions asked of them related to their personal health as well as submit to temperature scans. Visits with children with primary/complex medical needs will continue to be completed virtually unless there is a safety concern. For information about the May 12, 2020, DFPS notice describing resumption of face-to-face contacts, please visit the DFPS COVID-19 Page.

The Office of Court Administration has not changed any of the guidance related to court opening timelines. Programs should check in with their courts for local recommendations.

Judicial Updates

Guidance for Court Proceedings on or after June 1, 2020

​Effective June 1, courts may begin holding non-essential in-person hearings consistent with OCA’s Guidance to Courts Regarding All Court Proceedings. This guidance was developed following consultation with medical advisers from the Department of State Health Services. Courts who wish to delay non-essential in-person proceedings longer or who are advised to do so by local public health authorities may do so.

As noted in the Guidance to Courts Regarding All Court Proceedings, the local administrative district judges in each county and the presiding judge of each municipal court will be required to submit to the Regional Presiding Judge for their administrative judicial region a plan for all courts in the county or city, as appropriate, discussing measures that will be taken to protect litigants, the public, court staff, judges, and others visiting court buildings. The plans should be developed in consultation with local health authorities and the county judge or mayor, as appropriate. A template that can be modified as appropriate is available to assist you in this effort. In-person hearings, other than essential hearings that cannot be conducted remotely because doing so is not possible or practicable, may not be held on or after June 1 unless an operating plan has been submitted and acknowledged in writing by the Regional Presiding Judge.

A web meeting for local administrative district judges and presiding judges of municipal courts will be scheduled shortly to provide additional information and answer questions you may have. Should you have questions or need assistance with developing your operating plan, please contact coronavirus@txcourts.gov.

Emergency Court Orders

The Texas Supreme Court has issued several emergency orders that allowed courts to modify or suspend deadlines and procedures in legal proceedings, and to allow or require anyone involved to participate remotely, through videoconferencing. The Office of Court Administration also procured 3,000 licenses for Zoom to allow state judges to host and stream judicial proceedings. It is vital that local CASA programs check in with their judges and court administrators to understand how proceedings may change and how CASA can be invited and participate in the most effective way. See all emergency orders here.

Conducting Effective Remote Hearings in Child Welfare Cases

The Children’s Bureau has issued new guidance to highlight and strongly encourage court leaders to engage Court Improvement Programs (CIPs) in assisting dependency courts to respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Texas CASA identified the information most relevant to CASA and created an excerpt document.

Download resource.

National CASA & Federal Updates

National CASA

Re-Opening Considerations for CASA/GAL Organizations

We are providing consideration to a number of functions in light of the coronavirus (COVID – 19). This document focuses on topics that organizations may consider when deciding if and how to re-open their offices after authorities lift COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

Read more: NATIONAL CASA RE-OPENING CONSIDERATIONS FOR CASA/GAL ORGANIZATIONS

Emergency Grant Opportunities Available From National CASA

If your organization or program experiences an emergency due to COVID-19, resulting in the need for financial assistance, please contact Denice Hairston, National Quality & Accountability Officer at deniceh@nationalcasagal.org, describing the situation and inquiring about possible support.

Federal Updates

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act imposes new job protections for workers, paid leave mandates on employers, and a generous reimbursement scheme for employers through tax credit.

  • The law mandates two weeks of paid sick leave,
  • Requires a subsequent ten weeks of partially paid family leave for care of a child, and
  • Provides refundable payroll tax credits that in many cases will result in the Treasury Department writing checks to employers to cover some of the costs of the mandates.

More details.

Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application

Under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created by the CARES Act, loans may be forgiven if borrowers use the proceeds to maintain their payrolls and pay other specified expenses. The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration recently released the application form and instructions for loan forgiveness. While the instructions can be overwhelming, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has put together some recommendations and a forgiveness calculator so that all programs have to do is gather and enter data.

Download: Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application

Download: AICPA PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculator (first item under Featured Resource) and AICPA Recommendations Letter

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

On March 27, the House unanimously passed and President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion economic stimulus law.

What’s in the Bill for nonprofits?

There are two significant offering that benefit nonprofits. One is a loan program and one is the deferral of payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022. The offerings are mutually exclusive and nonprofits may choose one of the two, but not both. Continue to the FAQ section for more on what this means for programs.

Additionally, The National Council of Nonprofits created a chart that details the available loans that would apply to CASA programs, some of which are forgivable.

Download the chart.

Update to Family Medical Leave Act

The new changes to the Family Medical Leave Act law requires this new poster to be shared with all employees prior to April 1. If employees are working from home, we recommend emailing this poster to your entire staff. If you have staff currently working in the office, please also post it in a visible area.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

In particular, one change is that an employee may use FMLA if they are caring for their child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Please carefully review the provisions of these important new changes as explained on the poster, and make sure that they are understood by all staff and everyone receives a copy.

Download the poster.

FAQ For Programs

What are CASA programs required to do regarding face to face visits with children, families and community partners during the Covid 19 pandemic?

“The CASA/GAL program assures that volunteers have regular and sufficient in-person contact with the child to enable them to have an in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact based recommendations to the court. The CASA/GAL volunteer shall meet in person with the child once every thirty (30) days at a minimum. An exception may be granted in the discretion of the CASA program staff; however, the decision to permit less frequent in person contact shall be documented as to the justification for and reasonableness of the exception.”

Texas CASA joins all local program staff in wanting to protect the health of our volunteers, children and families and will recognize all reasonable justifications for not visiting children related to COVID-19 for the duration of this health crisis. However, because the tension of the times may trigger trauma-associated thoughts/behaviors in/from children or create dysfunctional behavior in the place where children reside, it is best to have eyes on the child in any way possible, in order to help the child stay calm and connected.

Not seeing a child in these difficult times when connections are most valuable could undo the work done to create the relationship. If in-person visits are not made due to reasons associated with COVID-19, we encourage the volunteer who does not visit the child to maintain video-conference contact with the child through the use of Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or Messenger. Waivers of any 30 day or other applicable time intervals between visits should be granted 30 days at a time, until more information is available, or circumstances justifying the exception change emerge.  In addition, your court may have passed an Emergency Standing Order that suspends any face to face visits with children until the crisis subsides.  In that case, the court order serves as your exception form and will determine the duration.

In addition, PC meetings, mediations, Family Group Conferences and other meetings should be attended by phone or online means such as Zoom, Go To Meeting or Skype.

Check in with the court coordinator for upcoming dockets and learn the court’s desire for proceeding. Determine how to address resetting hearings or convening and reconvening in cases of dismissal deadlines.

How Can CASA Programs Prepare for Returning Back to the Office?

Texas CASA recommends that local CASA programs continue remote work and remote advocacy until further notice, in order to protect the health of children and families, staff, volunteers and our local communities. According to the Centers for Disease Control, organizations should reopen only if they can ensure strict social distancing, proper cleaning and disinfecting requirements, and protection of their workers and customers; with vulnerable workers continuing to work from home. We’ve outlined our recommendations for CASA programs in the attachment below.

Read more: TEXAS CASA GUIDANCE ON RETURNING TO WORKPLACES AND SOCIAL DISTANCING DURING COVID-19.

How Can CASA Programs Prepare for Returning to In-Person Visits?

The Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board has created a Guidance to Phased-In Visits document that provides extensive details to consider in an easy to understand and follow format as your program considers and weighs the grave health concerns to children, families and program members. Download the guide.

Additionally, the Regional Representatives have provided the below information to aid programs with vital information regarding advocacy activities:

  1. A release form or waiver that allows an individual to acknowledge risks involved from Dallas CASA; and
  2. Five documents constituting a “packet” from CASA of Travis County that includes: steps to assess program advocacy in light of program operations; a draft/initial list of questions and considerations for programs and their boards to assess their readiness; a flowchart temporary protocol in returning to face to face child visits; and surveys for volunteers and staff that will consider individual readiness.

View and download resources.

What is the impact of Emergency FMLA Expansion and Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for CASA programs?
Paid Sick Leave

Employees qualify for up to 80 hours of paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to 6 different reasons:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual under an isolation order (1) or who is self-quarantined (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Additional information:

  • For reasons 1-3, employees are eligible for 100% salary up to a cap ($511/day, or $5110 in aggregate)
  • For reasons 4-6 employees are eligible for 2/3 salary up to a cap ( $200/day or $2000 in aggregate)
  • Emergency paid sick leave is in addition to any existing paid leave program you already have in place
Emergency FMLA Expansion
  • Employees are eligible if they are caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19
  • Employees have to be employed 30 day in order to be eligible. If you hire someone today, they will be eligible on May 1
  • First 10 days can be unpaid, but employees can use emergency paid sick leave during this time  ( at 2/3 their pay)
  • Employees will then be eligible up to an additional 10 weeks of paid emergency FMLA (2/3 of their pay with cap – $200/day or $2000 in aggregate)
  • Employers under 25 employees are not required to restore an employee once leave has exhausted if the position no longer exists due to economic conditions or other changes in operations due to the public health emergency.

NOTE: CVC and VOCA will continue funding positions if your policy includes a provision for the pandemic. Please see an example policy shared by Hill Country CASA. Programs may want to define in policy which individuals are eligible (#4) or are defined as family members.

Download sample policy.

Additional resources are available from the Department of Labor.

Can the Federal CAREs Act help CASA programs?
Staff who are teleworking or working remotely will continue to perform their responsibilities and can continue to be paid accordingly. If the program has staff working remotely and they are being funded under CVC and VOCA, there is no need to ask for a loan for those salaries. That would not be allowable under Texas CASA guidelines because it would be clear supplanting. If a person cannot work remotely and the program has no policy to address it, then CVC and VOCA cannot be used. Programs can amend their policy to create allowable circumstances for working remotely.

Staff may become UNABLE TO WORK due to Covid 19 for the following reasons:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual under an isolation order (1) or who is self-quarantined (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Again, if the program has staff working remotely and they are being funded under CVC and VOCA, there is no need to ask for a loan for those salaries. CVC and VOCA will continue funding positions if the program’s policy includes a provision for the pandemic. Please see an example policy shared by Hill Country CASA. Programs may want to define in policy which individuals are eligible (#4). Download sample policy.

Only staff who are not covered by grants and whose salary may be in jeopardy, if they have extended leave due to Covid 19 or the program becomes short of funds, would be a reason to apply for federal aid under the CARES Act.

If your program qualifies, you can apply for these funds:
$10,000 Emergency Advance under Emergency EIDL Grant Program

For nonprofit organizations seeking an immediate influx of funds, borrowers may receive a $10,000 emergency advance within three days after applying for an EIDL grant. If the application is denied, the applicant is not required to repay the $10,000 advance. Emergency advance funds can be used for payroll costs, increased material costs, rent or mortgage payments, or repaying obligations that cannot be met because of revenue losses.

Paycheck Protection Program Loans (emergency SBA 7(a) loans)

Creates an emergency loan program providing loans of up to $10 million for eligible non-profits, permitting them to cover costs of payroll, operations, and debt service, and provides that the loans will be forgiven in whole or in part under certain circumstances.

Loan Amount: The lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times the average total monthly payroll (including benefits) costs from the one-year period prior to the date of application.

Loan Use: Loan funds can be used to make payroll and associated costs, including health and retirement benefits, facilities costs, and debt service.

Loan Forgiveness: Employers that maintain employment for the eight weeks after the origination of the loan, or rehire employees by June 30, would be eligible to have their loans forgiven, essentially turning the loan into a grant. A caveat: the loan forgiveness covers costs incurred during those eight weeks so it is important to spend the proceeds of the loan during the eight weeks after the origination of the loan if you seek loan forgiveness.

Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application

Under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created by the CARES Act, loans may be forgiven if borrowers use the proceeds to maintain their payrolls and pay other specified expenses. The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration recently released the application form and instructions for loan forgiveness. While the instructions can be overwhelming, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has put together some recommendations and a forgiveness calculator so that all programs have to do is gather and enter data.

Download: Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness Application

Download: AICPA PPP Loan Forgiveness Calculator (first item under Featured Resource) and AICPA Recommendations Letter

Delayed Payment of Payroll Taxes

Allows employers to delay payment of the employer portion payroll taxes in 2020; payable in equal halves at the end of 2021 and 2022.

Eligibility for Both Programs: Available for charitable nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees (counting each individual – full time or part time and not FTEs). The law does not disqualify nonprofits that are eligible for payments under Title XIX of the Social Security Act (Medicaid), but does require that employees of affiliated nonprofits may be counted toward the 500 employee cap, depending on the degree of control of the parent organization.

No Personal Guarantee: No personal guarantee or collateral will be required in securing a loan.

How can CASA volunteers keep up with their advocacy?

CASA volunteers are encouraged to use alternative contact options like virtual visits, phone calls, email or text. These can be used when checking in with the child(ren) and those involved in the case, including CASA Supervisor, caseworker, caregivers, parents and legal representation. 

Check out more suggestions and resources in our Quick Tips guide.

How can CASA programs offer training virtually? What are the curriculum options?
Pre-Service Training During Social Distancing:
  • In the interest of public health, Texas CASA is supporting programs in temporarily replacing the minimum required ten hours of in-person face to face training with at least ten hours of live, virtual video-based training via a platform such as Zoom.
  • Texas CASA has purchased a paid Zoom license for each program.
  • National CASA has also created an option for using their flex curriculum fully online. If you wish to use this option, you’ll need to reach out to National CASA to get set up with a Moodle account, and you can e-mail their team at training@nationalcasa.org.
  •  
Using National CASA’s virtual flex curriculum
  • The virtual flex curriculum consists of five virtual training sessions (of approximately three hours each) and assignments and activities learners complete at home and online in between each session (approximately three hours of homework in between each online session.) Learners are required to post to the shared Moodle chat forum where they can respond to each other and discuss their thoughts and questions about their homework. As the facilitator, you’re able to track a learner’s participation and ensure that they’ve completed all the required assignments in between each session.
  • The cost of using the flex curriculum is $75 per training class. However, National CASA has funds to help you cover this if needed.
    •  
Using Your Own Curriculum, Facilitated in a VideoConference Format
  • Another option is to take your traditional classroom facilitation guide and deliver it virtually over videoconference instead of in a physical room. This would require some tweaking and technological troubleshooting to make some activities work, and some pieces (such as the culture puzzle activity, for example) wouldn’t be possible in a virtual environment. We have figured out how to effectively facilitate a case study activity by using Zoom breakout rooms and using the chat feature to share the interview documents each group requests. Here is a link to each interview for all of the case studies separated out into an individual document that you can readily share with each small group as they request it
  • If you choose to move your traditional classroom training online, one way to make this more dynamic (and minimize the number of hours your trainees are having to spend on Zoom) is to use the new e-learning courses we developed last year that replace the in-person Session 2 and Session 7. For anyone who hasn’t yet had the chance to check these out, these are e-learning courses that cover the same content as the facilitated session while capturing the engaging spirit of the classroom as much as possible. They feature “hear from a peer” videos so learners can hear insights and examples from CASA staff and volunteers, as well as professionally filmed and acted case study interviews to give learners an immersive experience of working a case. Here is a link to more information about those courses!
Continuing Education During Social Distancing
  • If you have smaller classes of new volunteers, a great way to offer virtual continuing education for existing volunteers and make your virtual pre-service training more interactive is to invite existing volunteers to join you for different online pre-service sessions and count that time towards to CE hours. This allows you to have more learners in the video conference to complete the activities and engage in discussion together, and it helps make the virtual training a more socially rich and connected experience for your new trainees while offering another remote option for people to achieve their CE hours and brush up on foundational advocacy.
Effective Facilitation in a Virtual Environment
  • Remember that adults retain 90% of information that they actively do something with. It’s important that our training efforts don’t lose their participant-centered spirit as we utilize video conferencing technology. One way to do that is to use Zoom breakout rooms as a way to have small group or dyad discussions or engage in small group activities.
  • It may take some additional effort and finesse, but it’s totally possible to create an enthusiastic and engaging presence as a virtual trainer! Protect yourself from the dreaded “boring webinar vibe” that too often seeps into online trainings by intentionally keeping your energy up throughout the whole virtual training session. Continue to give your learners (and yourself!) breaks to stretch and shake it out, and find creative ways to weave in virtual ice breakers and energizers to keep folks engaged. Keep an eye on your body language — notice how much warmth and encouragement is conveyed through the screen when you smile as you talk!
  • Be aware of your own challenges and don’t hesitate to reach out for support! Texas CASA is more than happy to set a Zoom and do a mock training with you so you can troubleshoot anything you need to before you start your next training.
  • Continue to actively create a positive learning environment in your virtual classroom: validate people as they share their thoughts and concerns, continue to let them know they’re asking great questions and surfacing important points.
  • Don’t be shy about making follow up phone calls to participants for screening purposes as needed. If someone makes a remark that you’d like to investigate more, send them a private chat to let them know you’ll follow up by phone so that you can talk with them more and better understand their thoughts.
  • Just as with in person facilitating, don’t be afraid to leave silences if your participants don’t immediately respond to a question that you pose. As facilitators we often have an instinct to fill silence before anyone might get uncomfortable, but keep in mind that’s not best practice for learning and engagement. After you toss a discussion question out, count to ten: give others the time that it takes to think of how they want to respond, or for folks less likely to speak up to get just uncomfortable enough with the silence that they put themselves out there and offer their thoughts!
  • Check in with participants regularly — text, call or e-mail them to make sure they’re aware of any homework deadlines and are on track, and to see if they need any technical support.
  •  

If you have more questions after reading over these notes or if you’d like someone to practice with, please e-mail mhalpin@texascasa.org and to schedule a time for one on one support.

How can CASA programs learn how to use Zoom to conduct visits, meetings and trainings?

Texas CASA offered a Zoom training to the network, and the training can be found here. If you are using Zoom with others who may not be familiar with how to use it, consider sending these resources along with your meeting invitation:

Please reach out Catherine Dooley at cdooley@texascasa.org or (512) 640-8241 if you have any questions relating to Zoom.

Additional Resources

Zoom Meeting Best Practices and Resources

  • Zoom Meetings Training Reference Guide
  • Zoom Online Events Best Practices

Zoom Webinars

  • Getting Started with Zoom Meetings (30 minutes) – Beginner Webinar about the basics of zoom
  • Zoom Meetings (60 minutes) – Intermediate webinar that takes you beyond the basics
  • Zoom Meetings for Education (45 minutes) – Power of virtual teaching and learning in the ‘classroom’

Zoom Video Tutorials

Zoom Video Support

Zoom COVID-19 Resources

Can a CASA program’s Zoom account be used by volunteers, or is it for staff only?

Texas CASA recommends that the Zoom pro license provided be used only by CASA staff. Ultimately, it’s up to each program to determine how many people have access to the username and password. For most volunteers, a free basic account would fit the needs of contacting children and families by video. Below is a breakdown of the differences between the free basic and pro accounts:

  • A Pro Zoom License Account allows meetings for up to 24 hours and 100 people. 
    • Texas CASA provided each program with a Pro Zoom License.
  • A free Basic Zoom account does not have a time limit for video meetings with 2 people. It has a 40 minute time limit for group video meetings (2+ people).
    • To download a free Basic Zoom account click here. 
    • One strategy for extending group video meetings with this account is to ask everyone to rejoin the exact same meeting once the time limit expires. That way, one can restart another 40 minute timed meeting if there are more than two people. 

To watch the 90 minute introductory training for the CASA network on how to use Zoom, click here. 

What security measures should CASA programs take when using Zoom?

In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private:

  • require a meeting password, or 
  • use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.  

We also recommend not sharing a link to a Zoom meeting on a public website or social media post if at all possible. For staff meetings, family meetings, volunteer appreciation events, trainings, etc., programs should email the Zoom link and meeting ID directly to attendees.

If a Zoom meeting is posted to social media or on a public city for any community recruitment efforts, programs can require meeting registration so that a person has to enter their name and email address before getting the link to join a Zoom meeting.

How can CASA programs continue to swear in volunteers?

Programs can continue to swear in volunteers while practicing social distancing by using videoconferencing.

Using Zoom or any videoconferencing platform, programs can invite each of the new volunteers who have completed training and their judge to “see” each other and take the oath – just like they would in person. Programs across the state are already doing it!

Programs can accept the written oath signature electronically and/or can simply wait to obtain that at a later time.

What should a CASA program do if a staff or volunteer contracts COVID- 19 in regards to notifying anyone exposed to this member of the program?

According to guidelines of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers have a general duty to provide a safe workplace. The CDC advises that if an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure. It is important to maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, including not sharing the name of the affected person. There is not a law that compels a person to notify all persons who they came into contact with if they have symptoms of COVID-19. However, if an employer knows that an employee or volunteer is having symptoms or tests positive, and was in their workplace, the requirement to maintain a safe workplace includes notifying employees and others of risk of exposure, quarantining exposed persons and sanitizing the workplace, for example. See the CDC’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers.

For more information, please see page 9 of OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and Texas CASA’s sample notice if an employee or volunteer in your workplace has tested positive.

Resources for Staff, Volunteers & Families

Webinars & Trainings Opportunities

From Texas CASA

Check back soon!

From Partner Organizations & Community Stakeholders

Check back soon!

For Staff

CASA programs can request refurbished computers on behalf of the youth they serve. Delivery times may vary on requests and depends on availability of computers. Additionally if programs are aware of families in need of emergency internet access please direct them to this resource guide of service providers.

List include guides for centering equity, community resources, technology, and more.

 

For Volunteers

Search Institute’s research is demonstrating that when young people experience developmental relationships with parents, educators, youth program staff, and other adults their outcomes are better, their risk behaviors are lower, and they are more likely to be on the path to thrive in life.

Includes resources for talking to children and an easy to follow infographic. Download infograhic.

Check out daily tips for supporting families through the coronavirus crisis from the Child Mind Institute on their Facebook and Instagram.

CPS has released a new fact sheet called “While Your Child is in our Care During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic: A Guide for Parents.”

CASA staff and volunteers and those working with families are encouraged to share this with the parents they serve.

The Healing Families seven-video set explains the principles and concepts behind Trust-Based Relational Intervention®, a proven method for enriching the lives of children, adolescents and their families. Learn to help re-wire a child’s brain for lasting positive change!

For Families

Get help for rent, utilities, free food, and health care. Also, in addition to the state programs listed below, find government assistance as well as organizations and charities in Texas that can provide additional emergency financial help with many different types of bills.

Medicaid recipients and qualifying low-income individuals can receive a FREE cell phone with monthly minutes, data, and texts from the government-supported Lifeline Assistance program.

Parent/caregiver guide to helping families cope with the coronavirus.

Age-and-proficiency-based language learning program for children in English and Spanish. Includes activities, experiments, lessons, quizzes, videos, etc. Free for 30 days, or until schools reopen using the “FREE family access” button.

High quality training and education opportunities for professionals whose work impacts the emotional development of infants, toddlers, and their families. Free access to online courses for a limited time.

This site provides content and resources you can use with your family to offer comfort and spark playful learning activities. Children thrive with structure in their lives and they learn best through play, even in everyday moments like mealtimes and morning and evening routines.

Looking for something for your kids to do? Download these games and activities. They’re fun, and they teach your kids some important lessons.

Mental Health & Wellness

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HHS Launches Statewide COVID-19 Mental Health Support Line

Call toll-free at 833-986-1919.

Available 24/7 for COVID-19-related mental health support for all Texans.

Working Remote – COVID-19 Principles

  1. You are not “working from home,” you are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
  2. Your personal physical, mental and emotional health is far more important than anything else right now.
  3. You should not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours.
  4. You will be kind to yourself and not judge how you are coping based on how you see other coping.
  5. You will be kind to others and not judge how they are coping based on how you are coping.
  6. Your team’s success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal.

The Trauma Stewardship Institute’s Survival Guide

Protect Your Mornings

Less cortisol, more intentionality

Go Outside

(or look outside)

Be Active

In body, mind and spirit

Cultivate Relationships

Those that are edifying and healthy

Nurture Gratitude

What is one thing, right now, that is going well?

Spend Time with Animals

Decrease stress hormones, increase comfort

Laugh

Pure humor = a sustaining force

Foster Humility & Extend Grace

Self-righteousness + hubris = unhelpful

Sleep

To cleanse + repair brain & body

Clarify Intentions

How can I refrain from causing harm? How can I contribute meaningfully?