COVID-19 Update for Birth to 3 Programs

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Wisconsin Birth to 3 Updates for Counties

COVID-19 Update for Birth to 3 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 to 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 Birth to 3 Program. 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. Provide basic COVID-19 resources, links to the DHS website, and community resources.
  • Initiate services through interim individualized family service plans (IFSPs). Interim IFSPs can be used for new referrals as a way to expedite initiation of services during this public health crisis. Explain to families how the process for developing a plan and identifying and providing services is different right now and how it will change when this situation ends.
    Additional information is explained below:
    • 34 C.F.R §303.345, establishes parameters for development of an interim IFSP, including conditions for provision of services, before evaluations and assessments are completed.
    • Under 34 C.F.R. §303.310(a), the 45-day timeline for evaluations, assessments and IFSP development does not apply if the family is unavailable due to “exceptional family circumstances that are documented” in the child’s early intervention records.
    • The federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) has previously provided guidance to states indicating that weather or natural disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic, may constitute “exceptional family circumstances.”
    • Programs must document the reason of the exceptional circumstance and complete evaluations, initial assessments, and the initial IFSP meeting as soon as possible after the exceptional family reason no longer exists.
  • Continue suspension of face-to-face contacts. In-person contacts should not occur due to the 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.
  • 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: healthcare 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.