Residential, Congregate Care, and Shelter Providers - April 1, 2020 - Coronavirus Update

The Department of Early Education and Care understands and appreciates the work of group care providers, temporary shelter providers and programs that work with DCF, DYS, DMH, DESE and EEC to ensure the health and safety of youth across our state.

As we ensure social distancing and follow the safety guidance of the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, we are here to support you as you work to care for the youth and staff in your programs.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) has issued guidance for organizations that operate congregate care programs and updated this guidance on March 25: Updated Congregate Care Guidance.

These are unprecedented times--evolving and changing daily. Please continue sending questions and concerns to EEC. We will be updating this site regularly and ask you to check back regularly to get the most up-to-date information.

Who should I call if I have a question about COVID19 or if staff or residents test positive or need to be quarantined?

If you have an immediate general question about coronavirus, call 211.

If you have a question about any staff or resident who tested positive for coronavirus, or is quarantined due to potential “close contact”, call your local Board of Health. If your local Board of Health does not respond within three hours, please contact the Department of Public Health’s Epidemiology Line at 617-983-6800 If any staff or resident tests positive or is quarantined due to potential “close contact”, notify your EEC licensor as soon as possible after you contact the Board of Health.

We ask that you notify your licensor if you have any staff or resident that is quarantined due to potential exposure, program closure or staffing issues. In the case of possible exposure please reach out to your local board of health for up- to- date information and requirements. Your local board of health and DPH will instruct your program on quarantine guidelines on a case by case basis. If this advice leads to capacity concerns, please work with your licensor.

Table of Contents

Background Record Checks

Overview:

The Department of Early Education and Care has developed an expedited background record check process for urgent childcare and residential providers in need of temporary or emergency staffing. The process will include a CORI, SORI and DCF check and will be coordinated through the EEC Licensing staff. For those individuals who do not have an existing BRC suitability, EEC will expedite their background record check, anticipated to be completed within 48 – 72 hours.

It is important to note that this process should be initiated through the program’s licensor. Please reach out to the licensor directly as there are procedures in place to check the status of staff in process and new staff in need of an urgent BRC. EEC is aware that fingerprinting sites may be closed. The EEC Contact Center receives a daily listing of open sites, feel free to call the contact center or the fingerprint site prior to heading to the fingerprint location. Your licensor is the best point of contact to assist with expediting BRC during this time.

Question: Can school staff/teachers who have had BRC in a DESE approved format work unsupervised with youth in the residence? If not, what is the process for expedited BRC approval?

Answer: Programs that operate both a residential and educational component, and the educational setting is now closed, may utilize educational staff with a BRC completed through a DESE approved format in the group care program.

For those programs that wish to hire educational or community-based staff who have had a BRC completed by another agency EEC will process these individuals through the expedited BRC process. Examples include, but are not limited, to public school teachers or day habilitation workers. Please be in contact with the appropriate licensing staff and they will assist you with the expedited BRC process.

Training

Question: Can training requirements be waived in order to prioritize other responsibilities for existing staff, and onboard new staff more quickly?

Answer: We understand that there are several training and certification requirements for residential programs that during this emergency situation programs are unable to complete. We expect programs to use their best judgement to ensure the health and safety of the residents and staff during this time. It is expected that basic life safety requirements will be reviewed with new staff as they are onboarded but understand that social distancing and ensuring a healthy work environment are critical at this time for all.

Some basic onboarding, such as characteristics of residents served, behavior support, emergency evacuation and what to do in a crisis are critical safety measures for the new staff and the program.

There will be situations where existing staff have not completed required training and orientation but are needed to meet the staffing ratio of the program and have unsupervised access to the resident. We understand that these are unique times and the need to ensure the health and safety of the residents is paramount.

Examples and strategies that can be employed include:

  • The verbal portion of restraint/de-escalation/behavior support training can be completed via ZOOM (on-line learning) but the hands-on portion cannot.
  • During this time, providers who are due for certification/recertification for trainings, etc do not need to submit a waiver or variance request to postpone the training. Once we are beyond this pandemic and emergency situation, we will work with providers to establish new schedules.

Staffing/Ratio

Question: What should I do if I can’t maintain staffing Ratios?

Answer: We understand that maintaining staffing ratios during this time will be challenging for programs and leadership. We ask that you work with your licensor and DCF. We will work with you on a case-by-case basis to meet the needs of the program, staff and residents. EEC and DCF will work together to support programs to identify reasonable solutions.

Capacity

Question: What should I do if we need to change our capacity?

Answer: Again, we ask that you notify your licensor if you are contemplating the need to increase capacity, combine programs, share staffing, etc. Simultaneous communication should occur with contractual agencies involved. EEC will collaborate with the agencies to assure appropriate guidance is provided during these challenging times. We understand that programs are acting with the best interests of the residents and things are constantly evolving and changing.

Elopement/Visitation/Intakes at your program

Question: How do we handle residents returning to the program from home, elopement etc. How do we handle new intakes? How do we handle staff entering program to begin shift?

Answer: We understand the unique challenges residential programs have managing Social Distancing and the stay at home advisory. Programs should follow the advice of the “Residential and Congregate Care Programs 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance” released on March 20 (and updated on March 25) by EOHHS which gives clear guidance on mitigating the risk of spread with screening and precautionary steps and these steps should be followed for any resident or staff entering the program. Given the Governor’s advisory, movement of residents into programs should be limited to the best of everyone’s ability. If you have questions regarding a specific case, please review the guidance from EOHHS and then reach out to your licensor if needed.

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