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Executive Director's Message Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic

Friday, March 13, 2020  
Posted by: Kim Dvorchak
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Dear Colleagues,

 

I don’t have to tell you – uncertainty, displacement, and disruption are by no means new phenomena in the child welfare system. The children and families we serve are intimately familiar with them and face these feelings all the time.  As child welfare law practitioners, it has been and remains part of our daily duty to minimize this as best we can.  We are now facing a global pandemic – but while the COVID-19 public health crisis is new to us and the full impacts are unknown, keep in mind that the way we as practitioners should face this is not that new or unknown – it’s an extension of our day-to-day role: to keep children and families safe and healthy through zealous advocacy for needed services, supports and interests.  You know how to do this.

 

While we understand disruption from our professional perspective, now we are simultaneously challenged with significant instability in our own lives as well – as caregivers, neighbors, community members, and coworkers. Some of you will be asked to carry your colleagues’ cases, others to develop action plans for your office, or to assist even more children and families through this crisis at the very moment when the services and resources they need are shrinking.  Yes, it will be challenging, and yes, it is necessary, but know this -- you are not alone.    

 

NACC is here to support you.  We recognize this public health crisis places a further strain on an already taxed child welfare system and creates a tangle of safety, wellbeing, and permanency priorities.  This week we held a video call with leaders of children’s law offices across the country as part of NACC’s Children’s Law Office Project.  The conversation confirmed that young people are already being impacted in a variety of ways:

  • Child and caregiver health are top priorities, and exposure to the virus and/or diagnosis may rapidly impact placements;
  • Courts are postponing dockets, which requires increased vigilance for attorneys to ensure young people’s needs are still met, that permanency plans are not waylaid, and that virtual court participation is accommodated for all parties;
  • Schools are closing for extended periods, opening up questions about supervision plans and food scarcity for children during the day and school district’s responsibilities to provide remote instruction;
  • Youth in detention and residential care settings are extremely vulnerable, not only to viral exposure but also to being cut off from visits from their caregivers, social workers, and attorneys; and
  • Children are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty (please see accompanying tips and resources for talking with children about COVID-19).

We also recognize that sharing knowledge, resources, and experiences is paramount to addressing and minimizing these impacts, both on the children and families we serve as well as ourselves.  To that end, NACC will hold a General Membership Webinar Call to discuss COVID-19 on Thursday, March 26, at 4pm ET.  Click here to register.  We know many practitioners, from organizations to government agencies to solo firms, are facing financial and logistical burdens and we want to provide space for exchange and support.  NACC staff will share what we have learned to date and provide members an opportunity share current challenges and innovative approaches in their practice during this crisis.  

 

NACC is working to swiftly infuse the child welfare legal community with resources and support in collaboration with national and local partners and funders. We have already set up an COVID-19 Resource Hub on our website.  We invite members to share information about the impact of coronavirus on your clients, your practice, and your courts so that we can generate and mobilize resources responsive to your needs.  Please email Policy@NACCchildlaw.org to share information, concerns, and resources.

 

At NACC, your practice is our purpose.  Our staff is largely working remotely, but we have the tools and technology to build community and support your advocacy.  This moment is a test of our community’s ability to mobilize, support one another, keep ourselves healthy, and elevate the special needs of the children and families we serve.  By promoting community and collaboration, brainstorming and sharing resources, and participating in open and honest dialogues, we can help mitigate some of this uncertainty for ourselves, but more importantly, for the communities and families that we serve.

 

With our deepest gratitude,

 

Kim Dvorchak, Executive Director


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