Atlanta CASA’s COVID-19 Response and Protocols
Updated as of 5/4/20
Like many of you, we are paying close attention to the evolving COVID-19 situation locally and nationwide. The safety of the children we serve, our volunteers and our staff is of paramount importance. We are determined to take prudent measures to help keep people safe, while attempting to avoid panic and continuing to fulfill our critical mission. We’re adjusting our practices and protocols to prioritize safety while still supporting our essential advocacy for children in need. As the situation is constantly evolving, we will continue to evaluate our practices and response, and this page will be updated to reflect the most recent information for our community.
- Office Closure: Our office will be closed until further notice.
- Child Visits & Meetings: Atlanta CASA continues to serve children with drive-by visits; virtual meetings; phone calls.
- Presenting in Court: Advocates continue to complete reports to the court and attend virtual hearings and meetings.
- Recruitment, Training, & Info Sessions: All information sessions, training is completed virtually.
- Events & Other Group Activities: Atlanta CASA hosts CASA night in – a virtual gathering of advocates.
- Answering Volunteer FAQ’s: Please continue to reach out to your Advocacy Coordinator.
- Stay Informed: Fulton County Board of Health
The CASA offices will be closed from March 18 until further notice. We will reevaluate as we get closer to the judicial order being lifted.
Updated 5/4/20: Child Visits & Meetings
For our volunteer advocates and staff, the following changes will be made to our standard child visit practices (last updated 5/4/20 to reflect adjustments to our expectations around the number of times we’re in contact with children):
- Effective immediately all in-person child and family visits remain suspended.
- Video contact continues to be the preferred method of communicating with children on your case during the hiatus of in-person visits to verbal-aged children, and to caregivers if children are too young to speak. In the event a child is too young for video or phone calls, please use video conferencing when possible to see the children to ensure they are okay while you are speaking to the caregiver. When video is not possible, phone contact is okay. If you need assistance using video conferencing tools, please let your supervisor know and we will help you.
- All children in congregate care settings (shelters, hospitals, etc.) should continue to receive weekly contact from CASA.
- All children in a reunification of any kind (protective order case in which they were initially placed outside the home and were then returned to the parents) may continue to receive weekly contact from CASA.
- Exceptions to any of the above expectations may be made on a case-by-case basis but must be staffed with and approved by the Director of Programs and documented in Optima.
- These restrictions will remain in effect until further notice and we will reevaluate and communicate with our volunteers and community again as changes develop.
The fear and anxiety that many of us are feeling may only be compounded for the children and youth we serve who have also been affected by trauma, and may trigger trauma-associated thoughts/behaviors in/from the child or create additional tension in the child’s home or placement. Therefore, it is vital to have eyes on the children we serve in any way possible to help them stay calm and connected. Not communicating with a child in these most stressful, difficult times when connections are most valuable could undo all of the work done to create a relationship. It is vital for the volunteer to maintain regular contact with the child either through the use of Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, or FaceTime (or other non-video tools if needed), especially where kids are in congregate care settings. We are working to ensure that the facilities where our children are housed can accommodate more frequent phone or video contact.
We anticipate that case meetings, such as PPH’s and Adjudications, will continue using video-conferencing software or by phone.
Atlanta CASA should avoid home visits until further notice. Please also note that we are still not allowing any in-person visits except those approved on an emergency basis by the Chief Judge. Porch/curbside drop-off of items to children and families served by CASA may be allowed under the following conditions:
- Face masks should be worn during any pick-up or drop-off.
- At least 6 feet of social distance should be maintained from other people at all times.
- Proper hand hygiene practices should be followed before and after the drop-off.
- Advocates and staff should carry their CASA badge with them in case it becomes necessary to explain to law enforcement who they are and what they are doing.
- Drop-off of items should not be used to facilitate a quick visit or in-person interaction with children or families. No in-person visitation is permitted at this time.
- Expectations about virtual contact with children remain the same.
- Advocates/staff should drop off the item(s), return to their car, and then call/text the family to let them know the item is waiting so that in-person contact can be avoided.
- Drop-offs should be documented in Optima immediately.
- Please coordinate with your Advocacy Coordinator about what is needed and limit trips to what is necessary for the child(ren)’s best interest.
Recruitment, Trainings, & Info Sessions
We still have big goals for recruitment this year in order to help the children who went without a volunteer, knowing that the majority of the children we serve come from vulnerable populations who may be more dramatically affected by the pandemic. We will need more volunteers to advocate for children still in need once we’re back to regular operations.
We’re continuing volunteer recruiting online. We are conducting Volunteer Info Sessions and pre-training interviews virtually.
We are now providing the initial volunteer training virtually through Zoom online video-conferencing tool. We will move forward with our continuing education training for current volunteers on this system as well. We will communicate with current volunteers as these are scheduled.
Events & Other Group Activities
As much as we want to thank our dedicated volunteers, we are unfortunately changing plans for our annual Volunteer Appreciation Celebration to comply with the COVID-19 regulations and orders. We will host virtual CASA Night In events and will continue to evaluate our plans as the situation progresses and want you to know that we appreciate our dedicated volunteers from afar!
We are currently evaluating all other future group activities and events for our children, volunteers and supporters. We will make timely, appropriate decisions prioritizing the safety of our community and will immediately inform all affected by any decisions to postpone or cancel other future activities.
We encourage all of our volunteers, staff and supporters to stay informed and protect themselves and others. As this is ongoing, we will make any needed updates to our protocol on this webpage, and will inform our staff and volunteers of urgent changes via email and text messaging.
You can follow local updates and recommendations on the City of Atlanta’s COVID-19 website: City of Atlanta Status on COVID-19
Questions? Email us with any questions or concerns you have may have.