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DCS Guidance on COVID-19

TDA COVID-19

On this page you will find information on the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak specific to DCS staff, foster parents and private providers. There is also information from the TN Department of Health and the Office of Governor Bill Lee.

Dear Fellow Tennesseans,

Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services is aware that children and families across the state may need additional support during this unprecedented and challenging time. As always, our priority is ensuring the safety, permanency and well-being of children by building strong, healthy and empowered families. You can help us achieve this goal by looking out for the children and families in your community. If you identify a family that may need assistance, reach out with a helping hand to link them to important resources found in the guide to the right. By taking care of the children in our communities, together we can make a difference.

Sincerely,

Commissioner Jennifer Nichols

 

 

 

Click here to view the TN DCS Family Resource Guide

For general information on COVID-19 (including symptoms, case numbers, preparedness tools, etc.) please visit the Tennessee Department of Health's information page by clicking here.

We understand many of you are working to keep your children entertained and educated while they are out of school. We have compiled a list of resources to support you during this time. There are informational articles and activities for small children up to teenagers. 

  • TN Department of Education
    Information from state education leaders on their response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
    https://www.tn.gov/education/health-and-safety/update-on-coronavirus.html
    TDOE Announces Partnership with PBS to Deliver Daily Instructional Content for Tennessee Students:
    https://www.tn.gov/education/news/2020/3/25/tdoe-announces-partnership-with-pbs-to-deliver-daily-instructional-content-for-tennessee-students.html
  • PBS Learning Media
    A library of educational videos, interactives, lesson plans and more curated for Tennessee Teachers in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education. It can be accessed by parents for free as well.
    https://tn.pbslearningmedia.org/
  • U.S. Geological Survey
    The science of earthquakes for kids to learn the story of plate tectonics. Includes animations, science fair projects, cool facts and how to become an earthquake scientist.
    https://earthquake.usgs.gov/learn/kids/
  • Resources for Supporting Children’s Emotional Well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic
    The following guidance, recommendations, and resources are provided by child trauma experts at Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts. The Center is housed at the University of Massachusetts with Child Trends as the lead evaluating agency, with funding from SAMHSA and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and additional support from HRSA.
    https://www.childtrends.org/publications/resources-for-supporting-childrens-emotional-well-being-during-the-covid-19-pandemic
  • TN State Parks
    We believe the best stress relief is time spent outdoors. Our 56 state parks remain open as we continue to monitor the situation in the world around us.
    https://tnstateparks.com/about/keeping-visitors-healthy
  • Memphis Zoo
    Starting this week, our team will offer a unique look inside Memphis Zoo through our social media platforms. This is an opportunity for us to connect our animals and team members with zoo fans who may be spending some extra time at home. All ages are welcome to check it out.
    https://www.facebook.com/memphiszoo/photos/a.10151881059293815/10157925328363815/?type=3&theater
  • Quaranteenagers: Strategies for Parenting in Close Quarters
    Because of coronavirus, teenagers are missing out on major rites of passage. Offering compassion paves their way toward feeling better.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/well/family/coronavirus-covid-teenagers-teens-parents-kids-family-advice.html
  • National Geographic Kids
    This site includes games, quizzes, videos, books and more to entertain and educate children.
    https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/
  • Scholastic Learn at Home
    Even when schools are closed, you can keep the learning going with these special cross-curricular journeys. Every day includes four separate learning experiences, each built around a thrilling, meaningful story or video. Kids can do them on their own, with their families, or with their teachers. Just find your grade level and let the learning begin!
    https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html
  • NASA Kids Club
    NASA provides a safe place for children to play as they learn about NASA and its missions.
    On this site, you will find games of various skill levels for children pre-K through grade 4. These games support national education standards in STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
    https://www.nasa.gov/kidsclub/index.html
  • NASA Climate Kids
    This is a resource for children to learn about weather, climate, air, oceans, fossil fuels, animals and more with fun games and videos.
    https://climatekids.nasa.gov/
  • National Gallery of Art Kids Art Zone
    NGAkids interactives offer an entertaining and informative introduction to art and art history. Featuring a variety of art-making tools that encourage exploration and creativity, these computer-based activities are suitable for all ages.
    https://www.nga.gov/education/kids.html
  • Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government
    Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government, a service of the Government Publishing Office (GPO), is designed to inform students, parents, and educators about the Federal Government, which issues the publications and information products disseminated by the GPO’s Federal Depository Library Program. It is our hope that Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government fulfills that role.
    https://bensguide.gpo.gov/
  • U.S. Mint – Pocket Change Kids Site
    Play games and activities to learn about the different coins the Mint makes at their facilities across the country. There’s also information about coin collecting.
    https://www.usmint.gov/learn/kids
  • kidcentral tn
    Information about how to talk to your kids about coronavirus and what families need to know to stay healthy.
    https://www.kidcentraltn.com/health/when-kids-get-sick/coronavirus--what-families-need-to-know-.html
  • PBS KIDS Daily Newsletter for Parents
    PBS KIDS’ new weekday newsletter offers activities and tips you can use to help kids play and learn at home. Sign up here!
    https://www.pbs.org/parents/pbskidsdaily
  • Audible Stories
    For as long as schools are closed, we're open. Kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids. All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.
    https://stories.audible.com/start-listen
  • The Kennedy Center Lunch Doodles
    Mo Willems invites YOU into his studio every day for his LUNCH DOODLE. Learners worldwide can draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing by visiting Mo’s studio virtually once a day for the next few weeks. Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons and join Mo to explore ways of writing and making together.
    https://www.kennedy-center.org/mowillems
  • Storyline Online
    The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.
    https://www.storylineonline.net/
  • Sesame Street - Caring for Each Other
    Your friends on Sesame Street are here to support you during the COVID-19 health crisis. We know that these are very stressful times; daily lives have been disrupted, and families everywhere are trying to create a new sense of normalcy. Children thrive with structure in their lives and they learn best through play--even in everyday moments like mealtimes and morning and evening routines. So our site is filled with content you can use all day long to spark playful learning, offer children comfort, and focus a bit on yourself, too.
    https://www.sesamestreet.org/caring
  • How are you protecting children who could be in dangerous situations?

The Child Abuse Hotline continues to operate and has never been down during this crisis. Our staff continue to follow the same protocols to ensure all reports of child abuse and neglect are screened and investigated.

DCS Child Protective Services investigators are still making face-to-face visits for initial reports of child abuse and neglect and will continue to do so in any cases in which the safety of a child is a concern.

To report child abuse in Tennessee, call 1-877-237-0004.

  • Are you still conducting home visits?

Yes, we are. DCS staff continue to make face-to-face contact for initial Child Protective Services visits, for any cases in which safety of the child is a concern. DCS received permission from the federal Children’s Bureau to conduct caseworker visits by videoconference, due to the extraordinary circumstances, but is making face-to-face visits if videoconferencing isn’t available. Family visits are also happening by videoconference, when possible. When it is necessary for face-to-face visits, or in-office family visits to occur, staff are calling in advance to complete a health questionnaire with the family to determine any risk due to visitation. Staff are also following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Tennessee Department of Health.

  • Are you still conducting new foster placements?

Yes, DCS continues to place new foster children every day. We are grateful for our foster families who are opening their homes during this crisis. DCS is asking screening questions of children and their parents prior to placement and children are receiving initial medical exams within 72 hours of placement.

  • What should foster parents do if they think they might have COVID-19?

Foster parents who have any symptoms of a respiratory infection (cough, sore throat, fever above 100.4 or shortness of breath), should contact their healthcare providers. We are also advising foster parents who have had contact with any persons under investigation for COVID-19 within the past 14 days or know anyone with known COVID-19, please contact your healthcare provider

  • Are court appearances canceled?

Some have been rescheduled. The Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court has declared a state of emergency for the courts and suspended most court proceedings through the end of April, 2020.  This includes juvenile court proceedings, but there are some exceptions, such as “Proceedings related to relief from abuse” and “Department of Children’s Services emergency matters related to child protection.”

DCS’ legal staff has checked with each court and has a general understanding that the courts will hear matters involving the safety of children. Most hearings are being held via telephone or videoconference, but some are being held in person. Some courts are also continuing to hold adoption hearings by electronic means.

  • What precautions are being taken at residential treatment facilities for youth in congregate care?

DCS central office staff hold regular conference calls with all providers who wish to participate to address concerns and provide guidance for the treatment of youth in congregate care facilities.

Following guidance from the CDC, DCS strongly urges private providers who operate residential treatment facilities to conduct COVID-19 symptom and temperature checks on all employees and other essential personnel prior to entry into their facilities. Per CDC guidelines, those running a temperature of 100.4 or higher should not be permitted to enter the facilities. DCS has also suspended visitors to all facilities except for attorneys and medical personnel. The same practices regarding symptom and temperature checks and suspension of visitors are currently underway at Wilder Youth Development Center, which is operated by the department.

  • Is the COVID-19 crisis having any impact on the number of child abuse and neglect referrals?

This is a real concern. Many reports of child abuse and neglect come from teachers, childcare workers, and medical professionals – all of whom are not currently seeing children on a regular basis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with higher levels of stress in this uncertain time, children being cooped up with parents or caregivers for longer periods of time, and the impact that unemployment may have on the family, the number of children being physically abused or neglected is likely to be higher than normal.

It is more important than ever to increase awareness that EVERYONE in Tennessee is a mandated reporter of child abuse and neglect. We encourage neighbors, friends, family and even parents to be vigilant and to call the Child Abuse Hotline (1-877-237-0004) if they suspect any incidents of child abuse or neglect.

The number of calls to the Tennessee Child Abuse Hotline has decreased this Spring compared to the same time period in 2019. There were 24,378 calls to the Child to Child Abuse Hotline from March 1 - May 9, 2019, compared to 16,272 from March 1 - May 9, 2020. This reflects a 33.25 percent decrease in the number of calls handled during this time. 

  • Will foster children still continue to participate in court-ordered visitation?

Yes, court-ordered face-to-face visitation is continuing in person. For visitation that is not court-ordered, DCS is utilizing videoconferencing technology to ensure the health and safety of children and families.

When videoconferencing is not possible, DCS will facilitate visitation in our offices or alternative locations.

  • What safety precautions are in place for caseworkers who are still making home visits?

The department is committed to protecting Tennessee's most vulnerable population, abused and/or neglected children. Due to the recent pandemic, we have had to take certain steps to also ensure the protection of our workers labor on the front lines of this crisis. When a worker needs to conduct a face to face visit, we have provided guidance to employees to contact the home before each visit. Upon contact, each employee will use a health questionnaire developed from guidance provided by the Tennessee Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control that helps them determine when a face-to-face visit can occur.

In addition, DCS is working with the Governor’s Unified Command and TEMA to obtain personal protective supplies for front-line employees. The supplies will continue to be distributed to staff as they become available.

  • I’m interested in becoming a foster parent. Is DCS still training new foster parents during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes, the department is still conducting pre-service training for prospective foster parents. For individuals interested in becoming foster parents, the department has temporarily moved the TN Knowledge Empowers You (TN KEY) training online. Live, interactive webinars allow individuals to continue the required foster parent pre-service training process from the safety of their home. We encourage anyone interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent to visit our website or call our toll-free number at 1-877-DCS-KIDS (877-327-5437).

  • Are there child care resources available to foster parents?

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) oversees child care resources and licensure. We encourage you to visit DHS’ website to learn more about financial assistance for child care and child care options and the availability of child care in your community.

DHS has also created a document that lists daycare centers across Tennessee with current availability. If you have additional questions regarding child care, please contact the Department of Human Services.

  • How does the Safer at Home mandate impact my private parenting plan?

As DCS does not have authority or jurisdiction over private custodial matters, you may wish to contact the attorney who assisted with your parenting plan and/or the court where your parenting plan was put into place. Decisions regarding altering or enforcing parenting plans would be addressed by the court.

However, if your child is currently in DCS custody or there is an open DCS case, we encourage you to reach out to the caseworker or supervisor assigned to your case with any questions you may have.

You can also ask questions about DCS' response to COVID-19 by sending an email to DCS.COVID-19-Questions@tn.gov