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

Remote Access Technology Direct Grant Now Available from Texas CASA

We know this is a time of change and challenges as many programs are transitioning to start and work “remotely.” In response to this, Texas CASA has made the “Remote Access Technology Direct Grant” available to all local programs. Below you will find the Remote Access Technology Direct Grant Guidelines and Reimbursement Request Form. Please contact us at Grants@texascasa.org if you have any questions.

Download Remote Technology Direct Grant Guidelines.

Download the Reimbursement Request Form.

Background Checks Centers Temporarily Closed
Texas CASA has been informed IdentoGO Centers are closing down all over the state as a “non-essential” service. Please be advised that two options are being made available to programs in lieu of this:

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 and allow them to have virtual contact with a child. However, it would not allow them to have a face-to-face visit with a child. See below for tips and resources on virtual visits.

As soon as IdentoGO Centers reopen, 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.

Events Moved Online, Postponed Or Cancelled

All Texas CASA events through May 15 have been either modified for online, postponed or cancelled. Please see the full list below. Events for late May, June and August are contingent upon the venues being open for business. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available. Additionally we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Texas CASA Conference in Denton.

ONLINE TRAININGS & MEETINGS:
  • April 21 | Public Policy Regional Coastal Regional Training: Originally set to take place in Fort Bend, this training will be taking place as an online Zoom conference rather than an in-person training. Learn more.
Cancelled Events:
  • May 6-7 | The Forum for Executive Directors & Program Directors
  • Oct. 28-30 | The 2020 Texas CASA Conference
POSTPONED EVENTS:
  • Old Date: April 18 | New Date: Sept. 26 | Notes + Nosh and Show Up for Kids benefit concert | Austin
  • May 14-15 | Volunteer Coaching & Advocacy (VCA) | Austin
Courtesy CASA Visits Postponed

In addition to postponing all meetings and events, Texas CASA is suspending the Courtesy CASA program effective immediately through March 31. All scheduled visits are postponed and new requests for March will not be accepted. We will reevaluate at the end of the month and let the network know once we are able to resume visits.

Data Deadlines Extended

Texas CASA has received an extension on the progress report for CJD. Programs will need to submit their data to Texas CASA by Friday, May 15.

Statewide & Child Welfare Updates

DFPS & HHSC Updates

DFPS Coronavirus Resource Webpage – Contains news, guidance and resources for contracted service providers, PEI providers, residential child care providers and child care facilities.

HHSC Coronavirus Resource Webpage – Contains news and resources, both for providers and people receiving services from Health and Human Services.

Interim Senate Hearings & Capitol Closure

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has asked committee chairs to cancel any upcoming interim hearings in an effort to contain and mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The March 30 Senate Health and Human Services hearing has been cancelled and Capitol building doors will remain closed to visitors until further notice. You can view the hearing schedule and notice here.

Emergency Court Orders

The Texas Supreme Court has issued four 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.

National CASA & Federal Updates

A Message From National CASA CEO Tara Perry

I want to 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—work together and support each other for the greater good. As a highly valued member of the CASA/GAL family, our highest concern is for your health, safety and well-being. I 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.

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.

Upcoming Webinars

Virtual Training: Maximizing Adult Learning in a Virtual Environment

  • Option 3 — Tuesday, April 7, 2020, 11 am-12:30 pm PT/2-3:30 pm ET

Working Remotely and Safely

  • Option 1 — Thursday, April 9, 2020, 11 am-12 pm PT/2-3 pm ET
  • Option 2 — Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 1-2 pm PT/4-5 pm ET
  • Option 3 — Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 12-1 pm PT/3-4 pm ET

Substance Abuse: A Family-Centered Approach to Understanding Impact

  • Wednesday, April 22, 2020, 10-11 am PT/1-2 pm ET

Register for Webinars

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.

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.

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 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.
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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.
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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.

Resources for Staff, Volunteers & Families

For Staff

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.

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.

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?