Identifying Strategic Solutions for the Pandemic

CAI helps Pennsylvania human services agency stay the course through COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 has created challenges for everyone. As we think about the implications to children and youth, our attention shifts to school closures, missed proms, graduations, and other rites of passage. What may not be in our thoughts are the additional impacts to children who receive services to protect them from abuse and neglect. The services include assistance to keep them safely with their families, foster care, and adoption. At times, in-person visits to assess a child’s safety and support strengthening families are still necessary. Children in foster care have a right and need to visit with their families, and children deserve to find their forever family if adoption is in their best interest. During the pandemic, private agencies that serve children and youth must continue to respond to the community’s needs – but must adjust the way they deliver critical services  

The Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services (PCCYFS) is a statewide network of private agencies that respond to the complex needs of children, youth, and their families. Even after governmental stay-at-home orders were announced, these agencies were responsible for providing continued services, which required them to transition to virtual delivery of certain services.

CAI partnered with PCCYFS on three primary areas that evolved as we learned more about COVID-19 and shifted to re-open our state after sheltering in place.  

First, we developed a toolkit that serves as a compilation of best practices from across the nation in regard to visitation, human resources, fiscal impacts, use of personal protective equipment, and staffing. The toolkit is revised weekly, providing the most updated information available. The toolkit ensures that agencies have the information they need to make informed decisions to support the children and families they serve while considering staff health and safety.  

Additionally, CAI staff facilitated virtual meetings with PCCYFS agencies, providing a venue for leaders to learn from their peers on a variety of topics and identify strategic solutions that can be implemented to support ongoing service delivery. Discussion topics included: 

  • Recruiting and retaining staff resources during this challenging time
  • Supporting children, youth, families and staff during this pandemic
  • Educating providers on federal support available to assist families, staff, and agencies
  • Obtaining and creating personal protective equipment
  • Understanding COVID-19 antibody testing.  

Lastly, CAI developed a method to help PCCYFS consistently track additional costs and lost revenue. This information is necessary to ensure that providers maintain the required documentation to request reimbursement for uncovered expenses. It also gives PCCYFS aggregated data to advocate as a statewide organization on behalf of member agencies.

Terry Clark, PCCYFS Executive Director and CEO, had this to say about CAI’s team. “The CAI Health and Human Services team was invaluable as we navigated these uncharted times. Providing services to children and families with complex needs is challenging and even more so amidst a pandemic. CAI’s team was dedicated to developing and continually updating a toolkit that served to guide providers as they changed the services they delivered. Through facilitated calls, CAI provided a venue to our members to discuss their challenges, but more importantly it provided a venue to identify solutions as private agencies continued to provide direct services to children and families. Further, we intend to use the data and information we are gathering to advocate on behalf of our members in future discussions with state policy makers. CAI’s dedication to this work was evident and benefits our members immensely.”

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