Begin Main Content Area

DHS COVID-19 PROVIDER GUIDANCE // OCYF

Guidance to Support Ongoing Mitigation Efforts in Child Welfare Agencies to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19  

Issued: June 5, 2020; Updated: January 22, 2021

Audience

County Children and Youth Agencies, Private Children and Youth Social Services Agencies, Child Welfare Service Providers 

Purpose

The purpose of this outreach is to provide general guidance reflecting the Governor’s and Secretary of Health’s COVID Mitigation Orders impacting services to children, youth and families served by counties and providers licensed by Department of Human Services (Department), Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF).

This guidance replaces the guidance  previously issued on June 5, 2020 that was based on the Governor’s strategic three-phased approach (red/yellow/green) to reopen the Commonwealth and ongoing mitigation efforts to limit the community spread of COVID-19. 

As the Commonwealth continues its efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the COVID-19 Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard has been developed for measuring COVID-19 community transmission. Each county will be monitored for COVID-19 community transmission and will be given a percentage rating based on its COVID-19 positivity rate. The county positivity rate is based on the percentage of tests in the county that were positive for the COVID-19 virus. Counties and providers licensed by OCYF should consider their county’s level of COVID-19 community transmission when making decisions and when creating agency-specific policies. As always, all service delivery and decisions shall prioritize child, youth and family safety and will consider updated information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and local guidance/decisions.  

Safety precautions, including social distancing and building safety protocols shall be followed for the purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

      • In-person contact, as required by the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) for child protective services (CPS) and general protective services (GPS) investigations, will continue with strict safety precautions that comply with DOH and CDC guidance; 
      • Telework is mandatory unless impossible; 
      • Previously issued DOH guidance for universal precautions applies;
      • All agencies with in-person operations must follow business and building safety orders;
      • Agencies must follow the most recent orders and guidelines to include masking requirements, travel restrictions, and continued social distancing requirements; and
      • All agencies must screen employees prior to each shift, or for employees that don’t work shifts, before the employee starts work. Visitors should be screened prior to entering the building for visitation. When children return from home visits, screening protocols should be in place to assess for the need to quarantine (See Symptom Screening Tool). 

Visitation requirements for Child Residential Facilities, Child and Youth Agencies, Foster Care Agencies and Adoption Agencies:

      • Visitation frequency and type (in-person/virtual) will continue to be directed by the court for children under their jurisdiction. All in-person visitation should consider the unique needs of the child, youth and family and follow the Governor’s Orders and updated DOH protocols. 

For questions or technical assistance related to emergency back-up plans, counties, agencies and providers may contact the appropriate regional office. 


OCYF Regional Office Contact Information

​Central Regional Office: 717-772-7702
Northeast Regional Office: 570-963-4376
Southeast Regional Office: 215-560-2249
​Western Regional Office: 412-565-5728


Contact OCYF before making any changes to your business practice as soon as possible. 

County child welfare agencies, foster care agencies, adoption agencies and providers should contact OCYF before making any changes to their business practices in response to COVID-19. Examples of changes in business practices include, but are not limited to:

      • Suspending services at a service location or temporarily closing programs.
      • Reducing or eliminating the provision of placement for children or youth in a program.
      • Closing county offices. 

Agencies and providers should continue to refer to the “Guidance Regarding Suspension of Regulatory Requirements for OCYF Licensees During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Stay Informed

The Department continues to monitor information from DOH and the CDC. Guidance developed by the department will be centrally located on the Coronavirus Provider Resources page , which will be updated as additional guidance becomes available. Over time, information will continue to be shared and disseminated to address questions and concerns as they arise and new information on COVID-19 as it develops. We encourage you to continue to consult these resources for updates on COVID-19, information on staying healthy, and updates on the situation in Pennsylvania.