COVID-19 Update for Children's Programs

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Children's Long-Term Support County Waiver Agency Leads

COVID-19 Update for Children's Programs

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is committed to supporting families, coordinating with counties, and partnering with the community to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and protect our participants, as well as the staff who support them. DHS has detected COVID-19 cases in numerous Wisconsin communities, and Governor Evers has issued Emergency Order #12, or the Safer at Home Order, to protect against widespread community transmission.

This email includes important information for continued operation of the Children’s Long-Term Support Waiver and Children’s Community Options Programs. DHS is relying on counties to protect and inform families, especially the most vulnerable, from serious harm.

County programs are instructed to complete the following:

  • Contact families and continue service coordination. Even though face-to-face contacts are suspended, service coordinators are the key link to families during this crisis. It is critical to maintain contact with families, focusing on high-risk situations and the most vulnerable children. You can provide basic COVID-19 resources, links to the DHS website, and community resources.
  • Continue suspension of face-to-face service coordination contacts. In-person contacts should not occur due to increasing numbers of diagnosed cases, variability in symptoms, and vulnerability of participants. Close contact with individuals increases risk of infection. In-person contacts should be replaced with contacts via phone or technology.
  • Reach out to key service providers and partners in your community. Learn what resources are open and available, stay updated about changes in local workforce and direct service provision, and share information with families. Valuable resources could include 211 and access to food assistance, medical, and other needed services.
  • Take action to protect vulnerable and high-risk children. Talk with families and youth about their health and safety needs, identify prevention strategies, and report any incidents that occur. A vulnerable child is defined as a child with a high level of life-sustaining needs (i.e., nutrition, fluids, or medical treatment) who has a limited informal support network and/or is dependent on caregivers or parents, has limited cognitive, emotional, and/or behavioral capacity to provide for these needs, and to whom at least one of the following applies:
    • Is isolated with limited or no adult outside the home and is not available to be observed
    • Is nonverbal and unable to communicate
    • Is medically complex and requires significant care from a caregiver or parent and is highly dependent on others to meet basic needs
    • Is the subject of current or historical child abuse and neglect reports
    • Has a primary caregiver with active substance abuse
  • Contact your technical assistance lead to share questions, ideas, and needs. We understand you are very busy during this crisis and expect you will need to triage prioritization. Please let us know what you need to do your jobs.
  • Stay connected. Confirm that you are subscribed to email messages, participate in DHS teleconferences, and follow the DHS website and social media. 

DHS will be issuing a series of communications and holding weekly teleconferences to share information as it becomes available.

As Wisconsin has seen more cases of COVID-19 in recent days, it is increasingly important to take measures to protect populations at an elevated risk of becoming seriously ill should they become infected: health care workers, individuals with co-occurring health conditions, and elders. Since this is a rapidly evolving situation, we encourage you and the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.