DHS COVID-19 PROVIDER GUIDANCE // OCYF
Guidance to Support a
Phased Approach to Ongoing Mitigation Efforts
Preventing the Spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019
Issued: June 5, 2020
County Children and Youth Agencies,
Private Children and Youth Social Services Agencies,
Child Welfare Service Providers
Consistent with the Governor’s strategic three-phased approach ( , and )
for reopening the Commonwealth and ongoing mitigation efforts to limit the community
spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Human
Services (Department), Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) has developed
the following operational guidelines for counties, agencies and providers of child welfare
services. Pennsylvania plans to proceed with returning to work cautiously. Activities that
are not structured around ongoing social distancing, universal masking, or other public
health guidance would likely result in a spike of cases and new stay-at-home and
The purpose of this guidance is to ensure child welfare service providers have a shared
understanding of expectations for how services will shift and resume as counties
transition from one phase to another. As always, all service delivery and decisions shall
prioritize child and youth safety.
The guidance on the following pages builds on and reinforces the guidelines and
restrictions defined in the , and phases of the Governor’s reopening
The RED PHASE has the sole purpose of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through strict
social distancing, closures of non-life sustaining businesses and schools, and building safety
Work and Congregate Setting Restrictions:
- Stay-at-home orders in place;
- Large gatherings prohibited; and
- Only travel for life-sustaining purposes encouraged.
As the transition from the RED to YELLOW PHASE continues, aggressive mitigation
measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 remain in place and there should be few
changes in practice or operations. Aggressive mitigation includes strategies restricting social
contact to reduce community spread of COVID-19.
Moving from the RED to YELLOW PHASE includes the following guidelines:
Visitors in Residential Facilities:
- The safest form of visitation remains through the use of video conferencing and
telephone calls. This method of visitation should continue where possible.
- Exceptions may be provided for immediate family members, if it is determined that the
visit is in the best interests of the child’s health and well-being and those factors
outweigh the risk of infection. In addition to the exception for immediate family
members and contact required to conduct CPS and GPS investigations to ensure child
safety, visits by County Child Welfare and Department staff, Behavioral Health
Managed Care staff or Juvenile Probation Officers are permitted. For all other visitors,
the following conditions must be met:
- If the visit is deemed to be necessary, prior approval by the facility director is
- Consideration must be given to designating a specific location for the visit
where safe distance protocols can be met;
- If multiple visits are occurring at a facility at the same time, those parties must
be maintained at safe distances;
o Each visit should be limited to the specific person of the intended visit;
- Visitors must be screened using the DOH guidance outlined in the Long-TermCare Facility Visitation Guidance;
- If a person fails the screening, that person may not remain on campus;
- Hand washing station(s) and/or hand sanitizer should be easily accessible to
- Visitation areas, especially high touch areas, shall be consistently cleaned and
sanitized after each use;
- Visitations should be staggered to limit the number of visitors in the facility at
- Documentation should be completed for each visit which includes the date,
location, time in, time out, the person visited, the person visiting and the person
completing the screening; and
- If someone is turned away, the provider should make every effort to conduct
video conferencing visits; if video conferencing is not available, additional or
daily phone contact should be allowed/considered.
- All visitors must wear a face mask upon entry, and practice proper social distancing,
hand hygiene, and appropriate screening protocols.
- Providers should ensure there is a designated family contact for questions/issues
related to visitation. Family members, counties and Behavioral Health Managed Care
Organizations are to be notified of changes to a provider’s visitation policy related to
- Deliveries should be limited when possible to specific non-residential locations, as
deemed by the facility, and should minimize contact with people living and working at
- Follow public health guidance, including social distancing, universal masking, and hand
hygiene to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
- Daily screening using the guidance outlined in the Secretary of Health worker safety
orders should occur.
- If an individual fails the screening, the person may not remain on campus and the
physical delivery should be refused unless it is an essential item. If the item is deemed
essential, appropriate safeguards including cleaning the surface of the item and hand
washing with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds by anyone who touches the
item should be used in the handling of the delivery.
- Documentation should be completed for each delivery which includes the date,
location, time in, time out, the person receiving the delivery, reason, and the person
completing the screening.
Volunteers and Groups
- Volunteers are strongly discouraged from entering facilities and may only do so
following all current guidelines for universal masking, social distancing, and health care
guidelines, with the expressed written approval of the facility director, and for the sole
purpose for supporting the health and well-being of a resident.
- While gathering in groups no larger than 25 is permitted in this phase, increased social
contact for youth residing in congregate care may expose youth with compromised
health conditions to undue risk of exposure to COVID-19. In order to ensure youth in
congregate care settings have optimal health conditions, social gathering for youth in
congregate care should be limited throughout the transition from the most restrictive to
the least restrictive phases.
- o All trainings and meetings should be held by phone or video conferencing.
- o Should a meeting be deemed essential to be in person during this phase, the
number of attendees may not exceed 25 and precautions of universal masking,
social distancing, and procedures following all public health guidelines must be
- Off Campus
- All in-person off campus training and meetings should remain prohibited.
Aggressive mitigation efforts remain in place.
- Telephone or other technology should be used as appropriate to take the place
of face-to-face trainings and meetings.
- An exception can be made if an in-person training or meeting is deemed to be
critically necessary and approved by the facility director.
- All trainings and meetings must maintain a policy of allowing no more than 25
- Each training and meeting that is approved as critically necessary should be
limited to the minimum number of staff required and maintain current
requirements for universal masking, social distancing, and public health
guidelines. The facility director should make such decisions regarding off-campus trainings
based on the training need weighed against the potential risk of spreading
- A training/meeting form should be completed for each exception which includes
the date of the training or meeting, time departed, time returned, attendees,
reason, location and person completing the form. Individuals displaying signs of
respiratory illness or other symptom based on Department of Health guidance
should be prohibited from in-person participation.
- All trips including staff and residents from the facility should be restricted unless they
are medically necessary or ordered by a court.
- Each trip should be limited to the specific person and the minimum number of staff
required and maintain current requirements for universal masking, social distancing,
and public health guidelines.
- Documentation should be completed for each trip which includes the date, time
departed, time returned, location, reason, attendees, and the person completing the
form. This documentation should also indicate if there was contact with anyone who
was displaying signs of a respiratory illness or other symptoms relevant to COVID-19.
While the GREEN PHASE will facilitate a return to a “new normal,” it will be equally important
to continue to monitor public health indicators and adjust orders and restrictions as necessary
to minimize the risk of spread of COVID-19.
For agencies that move into the GREEN PHASE, agencies or providers may develop their
own modified guidelines to meet specific child population needs.
Work and Congregate Setting Restrictions:
- Visitation may resume subject to the determination of the individual facility which may
still limit visitation as necessary based on Department of Health guidance related to
risk of COVID-19.
- In situations where multiple counties are involved (e.g., a youth is placed in a green
county and the visitor is in a yellow county), adhere to the reopening guidance for the
county in which the visit is occurring.
The following guidance should be followed in all phases of reopening:
Report All Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 to OCYF
For OCYF to be responsive to any provider needs related to COVID-19, timely
information from the county and provider community is essential. Staff should follow
DOH worker safety orders for evaluation, screening, testing, reporting and
communicating with employees when staff or a resident is suspected of having
COVID-19. In addition, if staff or a person who received services is suspected to have
COVID-19 or has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the appropriate regional office should
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|
Support Best Public Health Practices
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to COVID-19. Review orders
issued by the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health relating to worker safety and building
safety. Individuals should continue to exercise and promote hygiene practices and
ensure staff have updated information related to the use of face masks.
The following precautions should be exercised regularly by youth and staff:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after
being in a public place, or after blowing noses, coughing, or sneezing;
- Use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not
readily available. People should cover all surfaces of hands and rub them
together until they feel dry;
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Wear a face mask or other face covering when sharing space with co-workers or
- Cover mouths and noses with a tissue when coughing or sneezing or use the
inside of their elbow;
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables,
doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards,
toilets, faucets, and sinks; and
- Stay home if sick.
Review Agency Back-up Plan and Infection Control Procedures
All counties, agencies and providers must:
- Continue to review internal infection control protocols and emergency back-up
plans for events in which a provider does not have adequate staffing to meet
individuals’ health and safety needs;
- Evaluate staff adherence to provider infection control protocols;
- Evaluate capacity to implement emergency back-up plans in the event
staffing is impacted by COVID-19;
- Seek guidance from OCYF regional offices when circumstances arise that are
not included or addressed in emergency back-up plans.
For questions or technical assistance related to emergency back-up plans, counties,
agencies and providers may contact the appropriate regional office.
Contact OCYF Before Making Any Changes to Business Practice
County child welfare agencies, foster care agencies, adoption agencies and providers
should contact OCYF as soon as possible 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
- Closing county offices.
OCYF is closely monitoring the changing landscape as counties transition from the red
into yellow and yellow into green phases and will provide additional guidance on a caseby-case basis should unique conditions arise. County children and youth agencies,
foster care agencies, adoption agencies and providers should continue to provide
workforce updates and identify service barriers to OCYF.
Document Actions Taken and Maintain Evidence for Those Actions
As counties transition to a new phase, county children and youth agencies, foster care
agencies, adoption agencies and providers should continue to document any changes
to their operations and expenses incurred related to operations as a result of COVID-19
and maintain evidence to support why the changes were made. Doing so will help demonstrate the basis for an action, support any changes that may need to be made
and substantiate submitted claims for services rendered in an alternative manner due to
a COVID-19 outbreak.
OCYF will continue to provide technical assistance regarding the evidence that should
be maintained when counties or providers contact OCYF. The evidence that should be
maintained includes, but is not limited to:
- Orders or notices from local authorities
- Example: County Health Department A imposes a restriction on
public gatherings of more than 10 people, forcing Provider B to
close its vocational program for one week. Provider B should retain
the official notice from County Health Department A as evidence to
support the closure.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Department is aware that some providers
may struggle with adequate staffing. Despite this challenge, the facility remains
responsible for providing adequate care and maintaining a safe environment for
residents. The Department will continue to uphold its regulatory responsibilities but will
not cite a facility based solely on a request for assistance from federal, state, or local
resources. The Office of Children, Youth, and Families expects facilities to reach out for
assistance during this unprecedented time.
The Department continues to monitor information from DOH and the CDC. Guidancedeveloped by the Department 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.
- COVID-19-specific information can be found at:
- `DOH holds regular press briefings to announce the latest efforts and
updates on the commonwealth’s response to COVID-19. Counties, foster
care agencies, adoption agencies and providers may watch a free live
stream of the regular briefing at https://pacast.com/live/doh.
- One of the most important steps you can take to stay informed about our
program is subscribe to our Listservs. Important announcements,
including announcements about COVID-19, are regularly sent over the
- Please email ra-DPWOCYFNet@pa.gov to request subscription to
the OCYF Listserv, if you are not already subscribed.