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News & Resources

COVID-19: What to Do

These messages and resources are posted online for use by DFPS Residential Child Care (RCC) contracted service providers. If you have questions or requests, contact us at the DFPS RCC Provider email box.

Message to RCC Providers
May 12, 2020

We are committed to the safety and well-being of the children and families. The importance of our partnership in protecting and nurturing children cannot be overstated.

Beginning May 11, 2020, caseworkers across the state resumed seeing children in person for face to face monthly contact unless a court order is in place prohibiting such contact. We are mindful of the need to minimize the risk of harm to children and caregivers as well as our staff. 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.    

Children with primary/complex medical needs will continue to be completed virtually unless there is a safety concern. For children who are placed in general residential operations or other residential facilities, DFPS recognizes the need to minimize the footprint and number of visitors by coordinating with the facility, and will develop plans to limit staff to only a few individuals.

We appreciate your flexibility and creativity during this time of crisis and are forever grateful for the care and support you provide to the children of Texas.

Message to RCC Providers
May 6, 2020

Effective May 1, 2020, DFPS resumed all in-person unannounced 24-hour awake night supervision monitoring visits. DFPS will no longer conduct any virtual visits to facilities or homes with more than six children.

All DFPS night staff will wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including masks and gloves, will maintain social distancing of 6ft, will ensure personal handwashing or use of hand sanitizer, and will clean and disinfect any materials used during the visit, including cell phone, tablet, pens, etc.  There are multiple options for obtaining signatures, as well, to avoid any unnecessary contact.

Staff will continue to ask screening questions to ensure we have up to date information related to COVID-19. Residential contractors may continue to conduct verbal health assessments of DFPS staff prior to entry into the facility, but must allow DFPS staff to enter as they are taking precautionary measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Please contact your contract manager if you have any specific questions or concerns.  If you have general questions or concerns, please send them to the DFPS RCC Provider email box.

Message to RCC Providers
April 24, 2020

To ensure that the educational needs of children are being met, DFPS caseworkers are collecting specific information via SurveyMonkey on all children in Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) placed in licensed care. The questions in the survey are related to educational instruction and the child’s access to virtual platforms (e.g. Zoom) and internet connectivity. Much of the information the caseworker may already know, but you may be contacted by the caseworker for some of this information. Because caseworkers must complete these surveys by Wednesday, April 29, 2020, please plan to respond to them as quickly as possible.

We are requesting that Child Placing Agencies please alert your foster parents about these forthcoming calls. We will also be in touch with General Residential Operations regarding the children in their care.

Message to RCC Providers
April 23, 2020

Thank you for all you are doing during this challenging time. This guidance provides an update to the direction provided on March 24, 2020 entitled Residential Contracts Updates related to COVID-19.

As a reminder, telehealth is not an option at this time for Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) checks. We continue to monitor the situation and work with HHSC on the issue. Below is additional information related to completion of the 3-Day Medical Exam, Texas Health Steps/EPSDT exam, and the CANS Assessment. We hope this eases the administrative burden on providers so that you can continue to accept new admissions and focus on child safety during this critical time.

The three parts of the 3-in-30 are being managed differently.

3-Day Medical Exam

There is no change. Please continue to obtain the 3-Day Medical Exam within 3 business days of removal. This is an opportunity to have a child new to DFPS conservatorship be seen by a health care provider and for the new caregiver to have information about the child’s health. These medical visits are very important.

If the medical provider contacted says that he or she cannot see a child for this purpose during the COVID-19 health crisis, the caseworker can reach out to the Well Being Specialist in your region for assistance or have the caregiver contact the Superior Member Help Line at 866-912-6283. The Help Line is available 24/7 and has options for Spanish speakers. When a new removal occurs, and the child has had significant exposure or is known positive to COVID-19 that requires quarantine or isolation at the time of removal, a telemedicine option for the 3-day medical is acceptable. These children, if clinically stable, should not be brought into a health care environment due to the risk of transmission. Please consult with STAR Health, the child’s medical provider and/or the local health authority for further guidance.

CANS Assessment

There are telehealth options for CANS Assessments for all children in foster care. Some current CANS assessors have shifted to telehealth, so check with them first. Pathways/Mosaic is available statewide as a CANS telehealth alternative if there are no CANS assessors with whom you ordinarily work who are providing telehealth.

As a reminder, if there are concerns about the child’s mental or emotional health and behavioral health services are needed, a CANS assessment is not required first. The Superior Member Help Line (866-912-6283) can assist with locating a CANS assessor or with obtaining behavioral health services.

Texas Health Steps/Well Child Checks (also known as EPSDT)

As completion of an EPSDT/Texas Health Steps exam is a federal and state requirement, DFPS cannot waive it. Please attempt to identify a Texas Health Step checkup STAR Health provider continuing to provide care for children in-person. The Superior Member Help Line (866-912-6283) can assist in determining if this is an available option with a STAR Health provider.

In-person Texas Health Step checkups should be prioritized especially for newborns, infants, and young children to stay current on recommended vaccines and developmental surveillance when available through local provider capacity. While some health care providers have limited capacity to provide well visits at this time, many practices have instituted policies to maintain well visits for young children.

If routine, in-person Texas Health Steps checkups are unavailable for older youth, obtain the checkup after the crisis is concluded. As noted above, if HHSC modifies policy to allow telehealth/telemedicine options for the Texas Health Steps exam, DFPS will provide further guidance as it becomes available.

During this unprecedented time, we ask that you document your efforts in obtaining the EPSDT. This documentation is not intended to be burdensome to you or physicians. Documentation is sufficient if it provides the date of call, the name of physician contacted to obtain an EPSDT check, and that an EPSDT could not be obtained. Please maintain this in the file for those children that will have an EPSDT check pended until the time a physician becomes available.

To be clear, it is not necessary to obtain documentation from medical providers when they are unable to complete EPSDT checkups due to COVID-19. DFPS understands the significant challenge the virus poses, and will keep that in the forefront when testing for Quarter 3 remedies in June 2020. As the COVID-19 impact lessens and we get closer to the review period, we will provide information on how these assessments will be handled.

Dental Exams

For urgent or emergency dental issues, please continue to access dental health care as previously done, and follow dental health professional recommendations.

For ongoing routine dental checkups, the requirement for six-month healthy checks are suspended until further notice.

Sharing Information

We will continue to make every effort to keep you updated and to share information as we have it. We know you are committed to doing the same. Please inform your contract manager of any variance your facility may have been granted by HHSC Residential Child Care Licensing so that we can take the appropriate steps.

Thank you again for your commitment to serving children. We recognize and greatly appreciate the additional effort that is required to continue serving children and youth during this trying time. We are particularly grateful to those providers who have continued to accept new placements and quickly identified ways to quarantine youth to prevent placement moves and provide continuity of care. Please continue to let us know how we can help. Contact us at the DFPS RCC Provider email box.

Message to RCC Providers
March 24, 2020

Thank you for all the much needed support and care you continue to provide to children and families.  Your health and well-being are of utmost importance to us, as are the continued services you provide to our DFPS children, youth, and families.  We want to share our plans for conducting the essential function of monitoring with you.  In order to maintain progress on key issues, we have been mindful to balance the challenges you are facing in the current environment, and have modified activities as follows:

  • Background Checks, Emergency Behavior Intervention training, and Trauma Informed Care training reviews will not be completed for the second quarter of the current fiscal year. 
  • The PACES system will be released for the quarterly monitoring beginning in April, however only Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) assessments will be tested. Converting to an electronic system instead of email and excel spreadsheets should minimize the amount of time spent by both parties.
  • Office visits for EPSDT checks are suspended until further notice.   A contractor must attempt to find a Texas Health Step checkup option using telehealth.  The Superior Member Help Line (866-912-6283) can assist if this is an available option with a STAR Health provider.  You are reminded to follow the instructions for claiming an exception when an EPSDT via telehealth cannot be obtained which remains consistent with an in-office checkup.   
  • The majority of work performed during on-site monitoring will now be completed by desk review.  Interviews will be conducted virtually when possible.  
  • On-site physical plant inspections for existing contractors and contract applicants may be conducted dependent on the status of the facility.    
  • Annual on-site facility monitoring performed by Youth for Tomorrow will be conducted by desk review and through virtual interviews.
  • Unannounced 24-hour awake night supervision monitoring visits will be suspended until further notice.   The monitoring will be announced with consideration given to the status of the facility relevant to COVID 19.  

 Because of their importance, several critical activities will not be modified. They include the following:

  • The quarterly verification and gathering of each contractor’s Sexual Abuse Caregiver Training log will go forward as usual.
  • DFPS will continue to gather internal data for the Safe In Care remedy and other performance measures resulting in incentives.
  • Non-telehealth (in person) Texas Health Step checkups should be prioritized for newborns, infants and young children especially to stay current on recommended vaccines and developmental surveillance, when available through local provider capacity. While some health care providers have limited capacity to provide well visits at this time, many practices have instituted policies to maintain well visits for young children.

Contract staff are informed of the need to cooperate with verbal health assessments that your agency may be conducting prior to accessing the facility.  

We are asking that you contact your contract manager if your facility should go on quarantine. 

Please contact HHSC Residential Child Care Licensing with any waiver or variance requests around ratios or licensing questions.

Please contact your contract manager if you have any specific questions or concerns.  If you have general questions or concerns, please send them to the DFPS RCC Provider email box. We will post this email on our Coronavirus Resources webpage, and we will periodically update it with general questions that we receive in the provider mailbox. We will of course also continue to provide you additional information and guidance as it becomes available.

Resources

Texans, no matter where they live, can dial 2-1-1 or (877) 541-7905 and select option 6 to get information and referrals to COVID-19 social services, including testing, community clinics, unemployment benefits and more.  Dial 2-1-1 to find information about local community resources such as financial assistance for utilities or rent and food pantries, housing assistance, crisis counseling, utility payment assistance, and senior services.

Message to RCC Providers
March 13, 2020

Thank you for all you do for children and families. We stand with you as you continue to deliver much needed support and care for those we serve. Many of you have reached out with good questions regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus). As the situation continues to evolve, we wanted to provide some information and answers.

While DFPS has suspended all non-essential work travel through April 30th, including in-person trainings and gatherings of 100 people or more, we are still seeing clients and visiting people’s homes. In determining how your agency is going to respond to COVID-19, we encourage you to follow the instructions of your local health authority and your agency’s policy. We understand you may have questions and we are working diligently to develop guidance to help you navigate providing services while ensuring your health. Your health and well-being are of upmost importance to us, as are the continued services you provide to our DFPS children, youth, and families. The following information may be helpful:

  • Stay in close contact with local jurisdictions regarding safety protocols to ensure a coordinated approach to service delivery.
  • Continue to meet contact requirements as defined by your contract.
  • When planning for or at the time of a foster home visit, if a child or family member reports being sick, service providers must plan for alternate arrangements to maintain continuity of services until all members of the household are well (e.g. at least 24 hours with no fever, vomiting, etc.)
  • To prevent stigma and discrimination, do not make exposure risk determinations based on race, ethnicity or country of origin.
  • Ensure confidentiality of people with illness and confirmed COVID-19.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after home or office visits in addition to washing hands frequently.
  • Limit physical touch (e.g. – shaking hands) with others.
  • Offer to share information with the foster family about available community resources, information and referral networks, hotlines, etc.
  • If it is believed that any of these decisions will have a detrimental effect for a child, youth or family, please elevate the concerns as appropriate.
  • If it becomes necessary to modify the method of service delivery, in response to direction from your local public health official, you must notify your contract manager.

Answers to Your Questions

Where would we seek guidance related to how to care for kids in a quarantine environment?
Please visit the CDC website. It is a great source of information and provides guidance.
What is expectation and/or protocols if a child, caregiver and/or staff person is diagnosed with COVID?

If diagnosed with COVID-19, communicate with a health care provider about next steps, including self-isolation. Importantly:

  • Stay at home until instructed to leave: Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider: The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.
Where can we get hand sanitizer? What about other types of personal protective gear such as gloves and face masks
Please keep checking stores to restock, however, the best method for preventing the spread of COVID-19 is handwashing. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including Coronavirus. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of Coronavirus to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers, and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
Can orgs get an allowance/waiver for face-to-face visits, ratios, etc.? Can we facilitate use of zoom, video conferencing for parent and/or caseworker visits, etc? What about ensuring the health of folks who are not “within our control” such as CASA, legal, families, etc but who do have access to children?
At this time, there are no waivers for face to face visits with family members. This is a federal requirement and a very important part of the work you do for children. If this changes, we will advise you at that time. While there are no changes now, if you would like, you can begin to strategize about alternative methods for contact like zoom, video conferencing, etc. DFPS is in communication with the Administration about federal requirements.
At the House Public Health Committee meeting, one of the witnesses mentioned a concern over the supply chain for medications produced in China. That brings to mind whether any of the medications we administer in our programs could be subject to possible supply interruption. Is there a list of the medications presenting this concern?

The Vendor Drug Program (VDP) is closely monitoring the formulary for medications sourced in China and will disclose any shortages. As of now, HHSC did not see many on the formulary that were made in China. Specifically, HHSC provided the following guidance:

"HHSC is monitoring potential shortages of drugs that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified on its website. Currently there is no shortage of any drugs used to prevent, test, or treat COVID-19. HHSC also has an established drug shortage notification process that manufacturers use to notify HHSC of any shortages. Should a shortage occur, HHSC will identify and announce possible alternatives.

VDP will share with the MCOs all information regarding drugs shortages. MCOs have prior authorization data and the most recent claims data to identify members that will (have) to have alternatives authorized."

Are there any travel precautions we should take or restricted forms of travel (i.e. air)?
Please follow all CDC guidelines regarding travel. Also, we cannot stress enough reviewing the DSHS website for information.
Are there any restrictions on out of state travel due to the coronavirus?
Again, please follow CDC guidelines and avoid those destinations identified.
A DFPS caseworker told me that travel is halted for children in care until further notice statewide, is this true?
No, aside from the CDC guidelines regarding travel, at this time travel has not been restricted.
Can we discontinue family visits due to coronavirus?
No. Family visits cannot be discontinued. We do not have any information that warrants not having parent-child visits at this time, given their importance. If public health officials provide directions that necessitate changes to parent-child visits we will certainly follow those. That being said, there may be instances where we move to Skype or Zoom visits in the case of a primary medical needs child for example, or if an adult has underlying health concerns, etc. The work you do as providers is critical and must continue. Family visits are important to both children and their parents. Please follow the direction of your local health authorities and we will continue to share information with you regarding any changes.

The Administration on Children, Youth and Families has provided information to address and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. For local assistance, please see the listing of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Local Health Entities. Check the DSHS website for the latest details and what Texans need to know about COVID-19.

March 13, 2020, Superior Health Plan began calling all caregivers of children and youth on to inquire about whether the caregiver has any pharmacy needs, authorization issues, or challenges getting the child or youth in to see a doctor. If they need assistance, the STAR Health member services 1-866-912-6283 will help them. The calls will continue through the weekend and are estimated to take about 3 days to complete.

Please contact your contract manager if you have any specific questions or concerns. If you have general questions or concerns, please send them to the DFPS RCC Provider email box. We will post this message on our DFPS Coronavirus Resources webpage, and will periodically update it with general questions we receive in the provider mailbox. We will, of course, also continue to provide you additional information and guidance as it becomes available.