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Maintaining Connections for Children in the CEO's Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last Modified: 28-Feb-2022 Review Date: N/A

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

This entry provides guidance on maintaining connections for children in the CEO's care during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

You  should consider this guidance with all approved information provided on the following sites:

Refer to WA.gov.au Latest Updates for the latest information on public health and social measures regarding masks, social distancing, and access to hospitals, aged and disability care facilities, and the COVID-19 Response Management page Masks, PPE and other Safe Work Practices for work related requirements.  

When working with other organisations and agencies, work collaboratively.  Communicate with them to check how their day-to-day functioning is being affected, and their requirements for working safely.  Be mindful when undertaking case management tasks, including safety planning, that other agencies' regular provision of services may be impacted and take this into consideration in making your plans.

Refer to COVID-19 Recording in Assist in related resources for information on recording.

Note:  CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities. 

Rules
Your safety and the safety and wellbeing of children, parents and families who come into contact with the Department must be the focus and priority in all interactions.

For any matters or actions in your work that relate to the potential transmission or diagnosis of COVID-19 you should:

  • consult your line manager
  • escalate issues to your district director as required, and
  • ensure accurate recording, including documenting rationales for the cancellation of activities/actions.

You must continue to refer to all usual practice guidance contained in Casework Practice Manual entries, except where an item on this page overrides guidance outlined in that entry.

The Department must continue to deliver critical essential services to the community. 

Information and Instructions

  • Maintaining connections for children in the CEO’s care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Reviewing contact arrangements as COVID-19 pandemic changes
  • Talk to children about maintaining connections
  • Talking to family about maintaining connections
  • Documenting the agreed contact arrangements
  • Court orders for contact
  • Maintaining connections for children in the CEO’s care during the COVID-19 pandemic

     

    ​​KEY MESSAGES
    • All decisions are based on what is in the best interest of the child.

    • Contact arrangements are continuing during the COVID-19 pandemic, however decisions about how contact occurs must be made on a case-by-case basis.

    • Maintaining a child's connection to their culture is very important, particularly for Aboriginal children in the CEO's care.

    • Opportunities to enhance bonding and attachment, especially for newborns and infants will be supported where it is safe to do so.

    • Decisions about contact arrangements, particularly face-to-face contact should be reviewed regularly, as new information becomes available in this changing environment. 

    During the COVID-19 pandemic children in the CEO's care are likely to experience an increase in physical distance from family, friends and other people of significance to them. It is essential that physical distance does not mean social disconnection for children. They will require the support of their loved ones more than ever and proactive and creative strategies should be used to support their connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The strategies used to support and promote connections may be different to comply with current advice. It is important that all strategies maintain the health and safety of everyone involved and in doing so face-to-face contact between children in the CEO's care, their family and significant people may not be possible at times and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

    You must consult with the carer, the child's family, the child (where possible) and Community Service Organisation (CSO) (where applicable) to discuss and arrange suitable contact arrangements. This should be done in a case planning discussion with all affected people provided the opportunity to be involved.

    When determining contact arrangements for children in the CEO's care, consider what strategies can be used to support their continued connection with family members and community, to support their sense of belonging and security and reduce their feelings of worry and loneliness. All of these issues need to be considered while also prioritising the health, safety and wellbeing of children in the CEO's care, their family, significant others, carers, colleagues and the broader community.

    Methods of contact or connection where it is not possible for face-to-face contact to occur may include:

    • Video services such as FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and Hangouts.

    • Telephone calls.

    • Photo sharing, including photo sharing apps.

    • Family music playlists to share songs with each other.

    • Gaming apps that can support siblings playing computer games together.

    • Recording family reading stories, singing songs etc for children to listen to at any time.

    • Letter writing or emails.

     

    Provide the following tips to family members to enhance their virtual contact:
    • Talk slowly and use the child's name repeatedly.  The child may take some time to adjust to someone's voice and picture.
    • Keep statements short.
    • When using the internet, fill the screen with your face so your eyes are big; sit close to the screen so they can see you clearly.
    • Keep the internet contact simple e.g. one or two people at a time.
    • Don't get upset if the child looks away. Remember children are easily distracted and only have a short attention span.
    • Bang objects together. This will attract the attention of children under 9 months.
    • Let the child chat away to you even if you can't understand everything they are saying.
    • Try singing, playing music or saying rhymes.
    • Pick a simple book and read it at the start or end of every session to build routine and familiarity.
    • If the child is over one year of age, talk about family familiar objects or playing a naming game.
    • Describe what you have been doing lately.
    • If the child is over two years of age, ask questions or sing a song (repeat the same song at each contact).
    • If the child asks you a question, repeat it back before answering.  

    There may be circumstances where planned, face-to-face contact is in the best interests of the child, and is able to proceed safely with precautions. Determine if face-to-face contact is the best option based on the following:

    • What is in the best interest of the child?

    • What is the current Department of Health advice?

    • What are the potential health risks posed to anybody involved if the face-to-face contact proceeds?

    • What is the potential impact on the child's wellbeing if the face-to-face contact does not occur?

    • Is the young person likely to seek out family at their own risk if face-to-face contact is not facilitated due to current Department of Health guidance? Is so, planning contact with precautions in place may be the safest option.

    • Is a break in contact likely to negatively impact progress already made with reunification? You should be flexible and regularly review the pacing of reunification, appreciating that it may occur faster than planned to avoid COVID-19 spread if it has been assessed as safe enough and is in the child best's interest.

    • Does the child have a medical condition that may place them at increased risk if they contract COVID-19?

    • Is there is a member or members of the carer or family's household who has a medical condition that may place them at higher risk if they contract COVID-19?

    • Does the carer or families' household have members within the 'vulnerable cohort' for COVID-19 e.g. Aboriginal and over 50 years old, non-Aboriginal and over 60 years old, and

    • What are the opportunities to enhance bonding and attachment, especially for newborns and infants, and how can this be supported to safely occur?

    It is important that you inform all parties that:

    • decisions about face-to-face contact will be reviewed regularly, as new information becomes available and as health advice is updated

    • increased timely communication with all parties affected by contact decisions is a priority, and

    • everyone involved in fact-to-face contact has a responsibility to adhere to good hygiene to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

    Face-to-face contact with newborns, infants and their parents is particularly important, especially if the mother is breastfeeding. Any face-to-face contact between babies and their parents must comply with physical distancing guidelines and hospital requirements.

    You should also refer to information about physical distancing and the COVID-19 entry Safe Contact with Clients – Home visits in developing plans for safe face-to-face contact.   

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    Reviewing contact arrangements as COVID-19 pandemic changes

    The advice will continue to change to reflect the current situation in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the advice changes it is important that contact arrangements are re-considered.

    As restrictions are reduced or increased the contact arrangements should be modified to reflect the change in situation. 

    If you have changed contact arrangements due to COVID-19, write that as the reason in a case note. 

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    Talk to children about maintaining connections

    Children will need to understand why there have been changes to how they connect with family and significant others. The changes may raise concerns about their reunification plan or increase their worries if they cannot have contact with their family. They are also more likely to be frightened and worried if members of their family or community are unwell.

    You should ensure there are people around the child who are able to talk to them about their concerns and worries. When you speak to a child who is feeling frightened, confused or worried, you should:

    • be calm and reassuring.

    • let the child know they will still be able to have contact and speak with their family.

    • ask the child how they would like to connect with their family, particularly if face-to-face contact cannot occur or has been reduced

    • ask the child if they feel worried about any family member or Elders in their community, what the worries are and if they have any ideas about how you or the carer can help them feel less worried, and

    • consider using Viewpoint to engage the child - refer to the COVID-19 Viewpoint entry.

     

    There may be reduced opportunities for children to connect with their culture through cultural activities. It is particularly important that cultural connections for Aboriginal children are maintained. To support this, consult with the Aboriginal Practice Leader about opportunities for the child to access and celebrate their culture during periods of lockdown or limited social contact.

    The child's family and community may have ideas on how to support the child's cultural connection. Ask the child and carer for their ideas about how cultural connections can be maintained during the pandemic. This may include access to:

    • language
    • music
    • books
    • television, movies and documentaries about their culture (e.g. NITV)
    • food, and/or
    • Elders or cultural leaders for activities such as storytelling.

     

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    Talking to family about maintaining connections

    The family members of a child in the CEO's care are likely to feel concerned and anxious about maintaining connection with their child throughout the pandemic. They may have increased concerns about the child's health and well-being as a result of COVID-19 or scared their child will get sick and they will not know.

    Talk with the child's family and reassure them that contact will continue, even if it looks different. Explain that changes have been made to maintain everyone's health and safety. Families need to understand why there are changes, what this means for them and to have the opportunity to ask questions. It is important that family are reassured that:

    • reunification plans will continue, but may require some changes to comply with current Department of Health advice

    • they will be notified about their child's health and well-being including if their child contracts COVID-19, and

    • maintaining connection is important for the child's wellbeing particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    You should discuss what contact options are available, explain if there are any restrictions on face-to-face contact and, where possible how face-to-face contact can occur safely.

    Explain that face-to-face contact cannot occur if someone in the household:

    • has returned from travelling interstate or overseas

    • has any cold and/or flu symptoms including fever, cough, sneezing

    • is suspected of, or has been diagnosed with COVID-19

    • is a close contact of someone who has COVID-19.  Refer to refer to WA.gov.au for latest close contact definition and new testing and isolation, and/or

    • if there is a lockdown in place.

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    Documenting the agreed contact arrangements

    It is important that everyone understands any updates or changes to the contact arrangements. Any changes to contact arrangements must maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, the same amount of contact the child was having before the COVID-19 pandemic. If the changes have been made to comply with current health guidelines, document that this is the reason for the change in a case note. 

    Everyone involved in the contact must be aware that the contact arrangements may change with very little notice if the Government advice around physical distancing changes.

       

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    Court orders for contact

    For information on Court ordered contact and other legal issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, refer to the COVID-19 entry Legal.

     

     

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Related Resources

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