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COVID-19: What to Do

These messages and resources are posted online for use by DFPS Regional CPS contracted service providers. If you have questions or requests, contact the CPS Regional Contract Program Director for your region.

Updated Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Provider Guidance
October 16, 2020

We appreciated your continued partnership in providing services to youth and young adults, in the safest manner possible, for youth and young adults, their caregivers, and your staff. Although purchased client services continue to be conducted virtually, we are providing updated guidance related to meeting the needs of youth and young adults receiving PAL services. This guidance is effective November 1, 2020.

Life Skills Training classes

Life skills training will continue to be conducted virtually. However, depending on the needs of the regions and desires of the youth, contractors may consider conducting in person classroom training following the recommendations of federal, state, and local health officials.

Life Skills Assessments

Life skills assessments will continue to be held virtually, by phone or in person (as done prior to Covid-19).

Aftercare Case Management Services

Aftercare contractors are expected to meet the contracted guidelines for in-person contact with youth and young adult clients.

The contractor may complete the visit virtually if the young adult or someone in the household has tested positive for Covid-19 or is in quarantine. 

Please remember to visit the DFPS website which is being regularly updated regarding COVID-19. You may contact your contract manager if you have questions or concerns.

CPS Regional Contractor Reminder
August 27, 2020

As we continue to navigate challenges during this time of crisis, we are grateful for your flexibility and creativity in providing services for the children and families we serve across Texas. CPS Regional Contracts released guidance on March 24, 2020 providing temporary flexibility related to meeting the needs of children and families through Contracted Service Providers. 

This guidance covered the option to allow providers to coordinate virtual visits by contacting the referring Case Worker to determine what the caregiver and parent have access to in the way of tools to use for communication so that a collaboration plan can be made for the virtual contact. We provided clarification that  virtual contact is defined as video-conferencing which is communications through technology, such as FaceTime or SKYPE. 

Additionally, in the March 24th notice information was provided on how to document and bill for virtual contacts at the in-office rates only, as applicable, for Fee for Service contracts. It was further stated that other documentation requirements remain as stated in the Contract.

CPS Regional Contracts will notify Contracted Service Providers by email when virtual contacts are no longer allowable. 

Please remember to visit the DFPS website for information and resources regarding COVID-19.

Please contact your contract manager to make sure your current email address is on file and for specific questions or concerns.

COVID-19 Information Update
July 10, 2020

Please remember to visit the DFPS website for information and resources regarding COVID-19. Thanks again for your efforts to continue to balance health and safety of all involved, yourselves included, in maintaining the safety, permanency and well-being of the children and families we serve.

Please contact your contract manager if you have specific questions or concerns.

Temporary Increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) Rate for Title IV-E County Child Welfare Services Providers
May 27, 2020

On March 18, 2020, the President signed HR6201, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. The bill provided numerous provisions intended to help states and individuals through the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, including a provision that temporarily increases a state’s Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate by 6.2 percentage points. For Texas, this increases the FMAP rate to 67.09 percent. The legislation retroactively increases the FMAP rate effective January 1, 2020 through the last day of the calendar quarter after the end of the emergency declaration.

For invoices previously submitted to DFPS for payment from January through May, the agency is currently working on retroactively paying our partners for the difference based on the new FMAP rate. For invoices submitted in June and moving forward, the payment will automatically be adjusted to the new FMAP rate. Please remember that payments are based on the FMAP rate in effect at the time payment is made and not the rate in effect at the time the service was rendered.

We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments based on federal guidance.

COVID-19 Kinship Assessment Guidance For Home Study Providers
April 9, 2020

Thank you for partnering with DFPS in our efforts to be committed to maintaining child safety and keeping children protected and connected. To this end, it is vital that DFPS and its Service Providers continue to explore and assess relative and fictive kin options for child placement. The assessment of a kinship caregiver requires the Service Provider to spend several hours with the family in their residence. In light of the safety concerns presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, DFPS is modifying the face-to-face requirements of the assessment in an effort to decrease the amount of time spent at a potential kinship caregiver’s residence.

Kinship Home Assessments

The Service Provider is required to conduct face-to-face interviews with all household members in the home and inspect the physical conditions of the home. The majority of the interviews with the prospective caregivers and their household members can be done through the use of technology which is referred to in this notice as a virtual visit or virtual interview.

A virtual visit/interview is defined as communications through visual technology, such as FaceTime or SKYPE.

To decrease time spent at the potential kinship caregiver’s residence, DFPS will only require the Service Provider to perform critical tasks of the home assessment process in person.

Critical Tasks

Critical tasks must be performed in person and include:

  • conducting a thorough walkthrough of the residence;
  • assessing sleep, water and gun safety; and
  • conducting interviews with young children who live in the home, who are under the age of five, and only if the virtual interview is not able to be successfully completed.

The child interviews and the walk through of the home should be done after assessing the family for known COVID-19 issues and while keeping the required 6- foot distance from individuals in the home. All other interviews and tasks (i.e. verifying pet vaccination, documents, and budgets) are considered non-critical and can be conducted using technology.

*Depending on an individual family’s circumstances, it may be necessary to delay the home visit to complete the home assessment process. Below are the modifications and best practices for conducting a home assessment during this time.

Planning and Conducting the Virtual Interviews

Scheduling:

  • Contact the potential caregiver by phone and explain the reason for the call.
  • Discuss the type of technology that will be used to conduct the virtual visits/interviews.
  • Schedule the virtual visit.
  • Request that the caregiver discuss the virtual visit ahead of time with any children in the home so that they will know what to expect.

Conducting the Initial Phase of the Interview:

  • Ask that all family members be present during the initial phase of the call.
  • Introduce yourself to all adults and children in the home and let them know what to expect during their portion of the virtual interview.

Conducting the Virtual Interview

  • Conduct the virtual interviews with each family member.
  • Interview each family member ages six and older, in a room with no one else present.

Conducting the In-Person Home Visit

Preparing for the Visit

  • Assess the family for known COVID-19 risk factors to determine the best timing for the visit to the residence. To assess risk for COVID-19, ask the following:
    • Have you traveled out of state in the last two weeks?
    • Has anyone in the household tested positive for COVID-19?
    • Have you had contact with anyone who could have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last two weeks?
    • Do you have any symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g., cough, sore throat, fever, or shortness of breath)?
  • If risk factors are present, notify the referring Case Worker for instructions.
  • If risk factors are not present, arrange for the walk through of the home.

Conducting the Visit

  • Use social distancing and stay at least six feet away from other persons whenever possible.
  • Avoid physical touch (e.g. shaking hands) with others.
  • During the in-person visit, discuss how the family is coping with the COVID-19 event, what steps they are taking to prevent infection, what they have been or are planning to do to keep the children occupied, and how the COVID-19 event is affecting their stress levels.

In conclusion, please remember to visit the DFPS website which is being regularly updated regarding COVID-19.

Thanks again for your efforts to continue to balance health and safety of all involved, yourselves included, in maintaining the safety, permanency and well-being of the children and families we serve.

Please contact your contract manager if you have any specific questions or concerns.

Essential Services under COVID-19
April 2, 2020

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-14 that limits social gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household, except where necessary to provide or obtain essential services. The work you do to support DFPS and address the needs of the children, youth and families is considered essential service under the order.

Recognized by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and adopted from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the list of services considered to comprise the essential critical workforce includes the following:

  • Workers who support food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for needy groups and individuals, including in-need populations.
  • Public agency workers responding to abuse and neglect of children, elders, and dependent adults.
  • Healthcare providers and Caregivers including social workers.

Because of this recognition, Executive Order GA-14 allows you to continue to serve the needs of children, youth and families.

Additional information can also be found on the Texas Division of Emergency Management website. If you have any questions, please contact your contract manager.

Clarification for Certain Providers: Information about COVID-19 provided on March 24
March 30, 2020

The guidance provided March 24 (below) also applies to Post Adoption Services and Post Permanency Services, as they are related to meeting the needs of children and families and our work with them. To coordinate virtual contacts, please contact the family to determine what the caregiver and parent have access to in the way of tools to use for communication so that a collaboration plan can be made for the virtual contact.

Broadcasts previously shared remain in effect, unless otherwise specified.

Information on COVID-19
March 24, 2020

We truly appreciate the work you do for children and families and for your partnership with DFPS. With the constantly changing nature of COVID-19 situation, we wanted to provide some additional information to you.

Over the past several days, there have been a variety of changes as we all adjust to meeting the needs of children, youth, families, providers and other stakeholders during this unprecedented health care challenge, known as COVID-19. As a child protection agency remaining committed to the safety of our children, youth, families, workforce, and partners, we want to ensure you have as much up-to-date information as possible about our shared mission.

We have new guidance related to meeting the needs of children in conservatorship and our work with them, including children placed both in and out of state. Broadcasts previously shared remain in effect, unless otherwise specified.

Virtual Supports to Children and Families

While DFPS continues to see clients and visit people’s homes, we understand that families have expressed concern about their well-being in continuing the voluntary, supportive services our providers offer. In these situations, to coordinate virtual visits, please contact the referring Case Worker to determine what the caregiver and parent have access to in the way of tools to use for communication so that a collaboration plan can be made for the virtual contact. Services that could be virtual include:

  • Intakes;
  • Psychological or Psychiatric Evaluation and Testing;
  • Family and individual coaching or counseling;
  • Crisis counseling, including creating plans for families for conflict resolution in a crisis;
  • Case management, mentoring and other forms of online support or service delivery;
  • Support groups, training, or other virtual discussion groups; and
  • Home visits.

The federal government is allowing the use of video-conferencing during the COVID-19 situation. Video-conferencing is communications through technology, such as FaceTime or SKYPE, and will be referred to here as a “virtual contact”.

Documenting Virtual Contacts

Virtual contacts should be documented as such in the monthly billing documentation. Virtual contacts for assessment and counseling services should be billed at the in-office rate only. Other documentation requirements remain the same. Please contact your contract manager with specific billing questions.

Kinship Home Assessment

There is a two-week moratorium on visits required for completion of home studies for kinship families. That means until April 3, 2020, no home visits for home studies will be conducted. This date may be extended depending on state and local guidance. However, if the contractor and family would like to proceed prior to April 3, 2020, follow the information cited below in the Safely Assessing Home Environments section.

The provider can conduct pre-work with the family by doing phone interviews with the caregivers or collaterals so as to not delay moving forward once the home visit moratorium is lifted.

Parent-Child and Sibling Visitation

Parent-child visitation is an important activity to keep children in out-of-home care connected to their families. It is critical that visitation providers continue with facilitating parent-child visits while also looking out for everyone’s health and safety.

As many courts have entered orders to suspend in-person contact, there are ways to make for meaningful virtual visits. To coordinate virtual visits, please contact the referring Case Worker to determine what the caregiver and parent have access to in the way of tools to use for communication so that a collaboration plan can be made for the virtual contact.

Providers may only move to virtual visits for parents and children if the court has entered an order suspending any previously court-ordered in-person visitation.

Safely Assessing Home Environments

Prior to making a home visit, call the family and ask the following:

  • Have you traveled out of state or out of the country in the last two weeks?
  • Have you had contact with anyone who could have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last two weeks?
  • Do you have any symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g., cough, sore throat, fever, nasal congestion or shortness of breath)?

Exceptions

  • If unable to make contact prior to making a home visit, knock on the door and ask the above questions while standing at the door/on the porch and maintaining a distance of at least six feet.
  • If the answer to any of the above–listed questions is yes, remain outside of the residence and encourage the family to contact a medical provider. Please notify your Case Worker and contract manager as soon as possible.
  • Contractors/Providers should freely volunteer and share with the family his or her own personal answers to the above-listed questions in the spirit of transparency and to reassure the family who may be nervous about having someone meet them during this period.
  • If the answer to all the above-listed questions is no and both the provider and family are comfortable and in agreement, the provider enters the home but maintains a six-foot distance from household members.

Staff Support and Potential Activities

  • Develop and conduct virtual visit/service training and protocols for staff.
  • Provide support for provider staff impacted by COVID-19.
  • Perform any necessary strategic planning and information updates.

On-site Monitoring

If you have been scheduled for an on-site monitoring visit between now and April 3rd, we will either perform desk reviews if possible or your visit will be rescheduled for a later date. Please contact your contract manager if you have questions.

In conclusion, please remember to visit the DFPS website which is being continuously updated regarding COVID-19.

Thank you for your efforts to continue to balance health and safety of all involved, yourselves included, in maintaining the safety, permanency and well-being of the children and families we serve.

Please contact your contract manager if you have any specific questions or concerns.

Information Regarding Tracking COVID-19 Expense
March 20, 2020

With the state and the nation responding to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic in a variety of ways, we are incredibly thankful to all our partners for continuing our mission and responsibility to the state and the individuals we serve. This week the President signed two bills into law passed by Congress that allocate federal administrative and financial resources to government entities, businesses, organizations, and individuals dealing with this event.

 DFPS is not responsible for, or providing this assistance, however, we would like to provide some guidance to help our partners track these expenditures and activities in order to seek assistance in the future.

Properly documenting these activities now will strengthen your case and help expedite the application process later for requesting assistance and/or reimbursement from our federal partners or other similar entities. Entities are encouraged to track activities and expenditures that arose as a direct result of preparing for, responding to, or recovering from this event. These are activities or expenditures that you would not have otherwise incurred had it not been for the emergency event (coronavirus).

Some of these items and activities include, but are not limited to:

  • preparedness meetings, training, and outreach
  • employee time dedicated to outreach and education
  • employee time for decontamination and sanitation
  • additional cleaning and sanitizing supplies
  • employee time for quarantined individuals (only those with confirmed cases, excludes self-quarantine)
  • over-time expenses for workers offsetting workload requirement due to staff quarantines
  • computer equipment or licenses to allow staff to work remotely
  • other related costs
  • donations or in-kind services received or provided that may be used as a match for assistance grants

For updates and additional information related to federal efforts and support, please visit the following links:

Visitation Protocol During Covid-19 Situation
March 17, 2020

Parent-child visitation is a critical and important activity to keep children in out-of-home care connected to their families. It is important that we maintain our responsibilities associated with facilitating parent-child visits while also looking out for everyone’s health and safety.

This guidance does not pertain to parent-child visits that occur in the homes of relatives or other caregivers. It is intended as guidance for parent-child visits that DFPS or a contracted visitation provider supervises. Visits may no longer take place in public settings such as restaurants or parks. If we have a court order to hold visits at a specific public site, we need to consult with our attorney. All visits will be held at DFPS offices or at the offices of visitation contractors.

All participants in a visit must thoroughly wash their hands or use an appropriate hand sanitizer solution of at least 60% alcohol at the beginning and end of the visit.

Surfaces in the visitation area, to include tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, should be cleaned at the beginning and end of every visit. Options for appropriate disinfection can be found under the Clean and Disinfect heading on this CDC webpage.

Excepting for court ordered persons, only parents and siblings will be allowed to attend family visits. Extended family members and friends will be excluded unless court ordered otherwise.

Prior to visitation, we should contact the parties and inquire:

  • In the past 14 days have you experienced any of the following symptoms: cough, fever, shortness of breath, body aches, difficulty breathing?
  • In the past 14 days have you:
    • Been in contact with a person infected with novel corona virus (COVID-19)?
    • Been to one of the affected countries or regions listed as a Level 3 health notice (please see CDC travel notices).
    • Been to a health care facility (hospital, walk-in clinic, emergency room) where people infected with COVID-19 are treated?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, please discuss the need to reschedule visitation in order to keep their child(ren) safe and healthy.

Anyone exhibiting the symptoms noted above should not be participating in visits.

In situations where parents or children have underlying health conditions or are considered at high risk or children have medical conditions that warrant extra precautions, we should explore technology options for visitation – i.e. Skype, Facetime. This includes children with complex or primary medical needs. High risk individuals include: people 65 years or older, and/or people with medical issues, like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, or a weakened immune system. We should consult with our attorney if this would be a change to court ordered visitation.

Message to Contracted Service Providers
March 13, 2020

Thank you for the work you do for children and families and for your partnership with DFPS. With the constantly changing nature of COVID-19 situation, we wanted to provide some information to you.

While DFPS has suspended all non-essential work travel through April 30, including in-person trainings and gatherings of 100 people or more, we are still seeing clients and visiting people’s homes. Likewise, the services you provide children and families is of the upmost importance and must continue.

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 to children and families while ensuring your health.

Maintaining services and contact with the children, youth and families we serve will continue to be an essential function for contracted services providers The following information may be helpful:

  • Contractors must stay in close contact with your local jurisdiction regarding safety protocols to ensure a coordinated approach to service delivery.
  • Continue to accept referrals and meet any contact requirements as defined by your contract.
  • Contractors conducting face-to-face services either in-home or in offices should contact the client by phone prior to in-person contact to inquire if there are currently any illnesses in the home or office. If so, if appropriate for the service you deliver, consider conducting client contact through alternate means such as phone, FaceTime or other virtual platforms that work for your agency.
  • When planning for or at the time of a home visit, if a client 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, including those confirmed to have COVID-19.
  • Wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after home or office visits in addition to washing hands frequently.
  • Avoid physical touch (e.g. shaking hands) with others. Use social distancing.
  • Offer to share information with the client 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.

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.

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 CPS Regional Contracts email box. We will continue to provide you additional information and guidance as it becomes available.