HHS Encourages Increased Access to PPE for Child Welfare Workers

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter earlier this week encouraging U.S. governors to consider designating child welfare workers and child service providers in their state as level 1 emergency responders.

Last month, HHS’s Administration for Children and Families granted historic, temporary flexibility allowing video conferencing for certain child welfare caseworker visits, but not all foster care oversight can be done remotely. Many child welfare staff must continue to engage in face-to-face contact with some at-risk children and families to help ensure their safety and well-being. This designation may increase access to equipment that will allow child welfare staff to do their work as safely as possible. The letter to governors from HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, aims to increase access to personal protective equipment (PPE) where needed.

“As we confront the COVID-19 pandemic, our health and human services system faces unprecedented challenges in serving our most vulnerable families, children, and youth. It is vital that we continue to do everything within our power to ensure that our child welfare service providers have the tools and equipment to see children in their family environments and in their foster homes to support their health and well-being,” said Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan. “President Trump has made the health and safety of our nation’s vulnerable populations a top priority, and we aim to see that work continue through the guidance, funding, and support we provide states and localities that are facing this pandemic.”

“Child welfare staff are on the front lines of this pandemic, but we have heard that some may not have access to equipment that will help them do this critical work more safely,” said Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson of the Administration for Children and Families. “We want to elevate this important work to States’ attention and encourage governors to consider designating these workers as emergency responders so they can more safety meet the needs of children across America—and we celebrate the states who have already done so.”

ACF Children’s Bureau Associate Commissioner, Jerry Milner, also sent a letter to address child welfare leaders, apprising each child welfare director of the aforementioned letter to governors. Associate Commissioner Milner urged child welfare leaders to work with emergency management and public health leaders in their respective state to obtain PPE, where appropriate, for required contact with vulnerable children in their state.

Quick Facts

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter earlier this week encouraging U.S. governors to consider designating child welfare workers and child service providers in their state as level 1 emergency responders.
  • Associate Commissioner Milner urged child welfare leaders to work with emergency management and public health leaders in their respective state to obtain PPE, where appropriate, for required contact with vulnerable children in their state.
  • This designation may increase access to equipment that will allow child welfare staff to do their work as safely as possible.

Quotes

“As we confront the COVID-19 pandemic, our health and human services system faces unprecedented challenges in serving our most vulnerable families, children, and youth."
HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan
"It is vital that we continue to do everything within our power to ensure that our child welfare service providers have the tools and equipment to see children in their family environments and in their foster homes to support their health and well-being."
HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan
“President Trump has made the health and safety of our nation’s vulnerable populations a top priority, and we aim to see that work continue through the guidance, funding, and support we provide states and localities that are facing this pandemic.”
HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan
“Child welfare staff are on the front lines of this pandemic, but we have heard that some may not have access to equipment that will help them do this critical work more safely."
HHS' Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson
“We want to elevate this important work to States’ attention and encourage governors to consider designating these workers as emergency responders so they can more safety meet the needs of children across America—and we celebrate the states who have already done so.”
HHS' Administration for Children and Families Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson
Last Reviewed: April 24, 2020
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