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Case Management and alternative care during the COVID-19 pandemic Part 2

Case Management and alternative care during the COVID-19 pandemic Part 2
Hello Sofia and welcome back. Please could you tell us a little bit about the way you’ve been adapting case management for those children and young people who have left alternative care in Ecuador. And now how you’re working through extended partnerships during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure those young people still receive the services they need in their independent living arrangements. In the past couple of months with the current sanitary emergency, we have been working on the adaptation of the protection services provided to new cases of unaccompanied and separated children identified.
So not only creating a protocol of the step by step guidance to give a correct response to these cases when they are identified by, but also, how do we adapt the programmes that we already have in Equador to the new context and the new regulations. Because of the high demand, our response has been mostly focused on unaccompanied and separated adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 years. We are working with partners to make sure that services remain available in accordance, in accordance to the health guidance, and adjusted to the current situation. So we have adapted the services in order to respond to two possible situations.
New cases of unaccompanied and separated children identified, and children and adolescents at risk of being separated from their caregivers in case they get infected and need to be hospitalised. The protocol created that I mentioned before gives a step-by-step guidance to respond to both of these possible situations and types of child protection cases that can be identified. First when we have new cases of unaccompanied and separated adolescents identified, and in lack of an effective response from local authorities, UNHCR and its Child Protection partners are committed to provide a proper evaluation of the best interest of the child and respond to the cases with the best possible protection service and care arrangement available.
Being this family placement, when available, supervised independent living arrangement, or any other type of emergency care arrangement that the case, the Child Protection case needs. The first step to this procedure will be for our Child Protection partner to do the assessment, and because of the lockdown measure this is done over the phone by a Child Protection professional. This Child Protection professional can be a Social Worker or a Psychologist with special child protection abilities and trained. When this step is completed the Child Protection professional will analyse the best possible protection measure and identify the organisation available to provide the service needed or the emergency care arrangement.
The protocol for this includes a list of organisations and services available now with the emergency and the contact information of these organisations and services. The assessment and emergency care arrangement provided will be notified to the local authorities so that they can also provide the administrative or legal protection measures that are needed to complete the process. The referral and transfer of the case is coordinated through the phone and therefore it has been important to establish focal points in the organisations and the government actors of the child protection system, and include this information in the protocol.
In this manner, the organisations that provide the child protection services and care arrangements have adapted to be able to deliver adequate response in the current context and respecting the lockdown measures given by the government. Before the, the sanitary emergency, the organisations in charge of the Child Protection case management was, were able to build with the adolescent a Life Plan or Case Plan and personally go through it with the adolescent step by step until we managed to achieve a full independent local integration process for the adolescent. Now this has to be done over the phone and in a virtual manner.
So now the economic support that is a multi-purpose cash based intervention that includes housing, food, hygiene products and health is delivered all at once for at least one month. And the process of building and delivering this Life Plan, as we call it, must be done over the phone which raises another set of challenges for the Social Workers in charge of providing these services. Likewise, the psychosocial support, assessment and follow-up that the organisations give to the adolescents is given in a virtual mode or over the phone. On the other hand when we have cases of children and adolescents in risk of being separated because of their, because their caregivers have been infected and need to be hospitalised.
When these cases are identified by one of our partners they will create a plan of close follow-up to the family to see how the situation evolves and if the children is actually going to be separated from the caregiver. This plan includes establishing a trustful relationship and providing the family the information, information needed for them to contact the organisation in case any help or support is needed. Thankfully, we haven’t had any of these cases yet but we, but we have established the protocol in case this happens so that we, we can have some idea of how to act when these cases are identified.
This protocol includes, as before, doing the assessment of the Child Protection case and analysing the best possible protection response for the whole family. This can be family placing when available, or other care emergency care arrangements that will be temporary until the family gets well and can, can reunite with their children. The evaluation and referral of the Child Protection cases and follow-up of these cases will also be done through the phone and the process will be very similar to the explained before.

In this video we will hear again from Sofia Baccichetto who is working as a Senior Child Protection Assistant for UNHCR in Ecuador. Sofia tell us how steps have been taken to adapt the way case management is being implemented for unaccompanied and separated refugee children.

In particular, Sofia explains the importance of working through adapted protocols and extended partnership arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic so that those young people who are now moving into independent living arrangements still receive the support that has been outlined in their leaving care plans. Sofia also tells us how a protocol has been developed to respond to children who may need alternative care if their caregivers become infected with the virus and need to be hospitalised.

When implementing child protection case management that include support for children in need of alternative care during the COVID-19 pandemic, we recommend you look further at the Technical Note on Protection of Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Children and Alternative Care.

The guidance recommends actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic include advocating for alternative care services to be classified as ‘essential services’ within government service provision and emergency management frameworks. Guidance also includes:

  • Families should be encouraged and helped to plan for who will care for children if a parent or caregiver becomes ill and must leave the household or, is too ill to care for their children
  • When making decisions on where to place a child, prioritisation should be given to family-based alternative care (e.g. care in the extended family and foster care)
  • Any care providers should be required to immediately notify authorities if a child is brought to their facility who has not been placed there through an assessment and decision making process carried out by an authorised caseworker
  • Children in alternative care are enabled to stay in contact with their families – remotely if necessary
  • Residential care facilities should not be closed rapidly and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) should be developed that guarantees the careful and safe reintegration and return of children from all forms of alternative care. Reintegration should be prioritised for children who can be cared for by their families or other customary caregivers. This must include documentation containing all the details about where a child is returned to, and ongoing follow-up of the child upon return until the assigned caseworker assesses this as no longer necessary
  • Local authorities should prepare Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to address interim care needs of separated or unaccompanied refugee and migrant children, including clear guidance on steps to be taken in the event such a child has been exposed or has symptoms of the virus and requires a period of isolation
  • Each residential facility should be classified as a single unit of residence for the purpose of government regulations/directives for self-isolation and clear guidance should be distributed to all service providers on requirements for social distancing, isolation and quarantine measures within residential care settings and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) should also be provided
  • Governments, in partnership with service providers, should help secure/guarantee the supply of essential goods (food, hygiene products and essential/basic medicine) and critical services – including those specifically needed for children with disabilities- to alternative care service providers
  • There should be a review and identification of key personnel/staff and plans for temporary replacement staff of those who need to self-quarantine
  • Governments and civil society organizations should ensure that drop-in centres and similar facilities for street connected children are designated as essential services, and are equipped with information on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as essential services such as health, hygiene, protection, education, and nutrition
  • Police should ensure that street connected children are not arrested for not self-isolating, and should be supported with access to shelters or other alternative care – and connected to other support services
  • Care leavers that have moved to semi-independent or independent living should be provided all the ongoing support they need.

The ‘See Also’ section below has links to other reading material that may be of interest to you.

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COVID-19: Adapting Child Protection Case Management

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