Supporting Youth and Young Adults Tip Sheet
May 18, 2020
Youth and young adults may be experiencing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be important to check in with youth and young adults frequently to offer support and reassurance. This tip sheet details how to connect with youth and young adults assigned to you and provides helpful resources you can utilize. Some questions are applicable to all youth and young adults, while others apply to a specific situation.
1. Is the youth or young adult aware of and do they have an adequate understanding of the
current health crisis?
- Review the main points of the current emergency and basic guidance on protecting oneself and preventing the spread of the virus. Make sure that the youth or young adult is aware of the specific precautions and orders in place including the requirement to stay at home and not gather in groups.
- Ensure that the youth or young adult understands which health conditions place them at higher risk for severe illness and that they have a plan to stay healthy and seek medical assistance if necessary. For example, youth or young adult with asthma, compromised immune systems, or other medical conditions are at higher risk. Guidance is available here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html
- Make sure the youth or young adult has access to a smart phone or computer/ laptop and internet service so that they can get information and reach out for help if needed. DCF can provide assistance with this.
- Share the recommendations and information from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which are available and being updated here: https://www.mass.gov/news/dph-public-health-advisory-stay-at-home-advisory.
- Youth or young adults can also text COVIDMA to 888-777 to receive updates.
2. How is the youth or young adult feeling physically?
- Review the COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, respiratory distress) that youth or young adult need to be aware of for self-assessment.
- Help them develop a plan of action if they become ill or a member of their family becomes ill. Advise youth or young adult to call their healthcare provider before going to the emergency room. Make sure they have a current number for their healthcare provider.
- Let them know that they can call Mass 211, the state hotline for COVID-19 information and referrals. It’s staffed 24/7, all calls are free and confidential, and interpreter services are available in multiple languages.
3. How is the youth or young adult feeling emotionally? Are they feeling isolated, depressed, and/or anxious, and expressing or demonstrating a need for behavioral health services?
- Reassure the youth or young adult that increased anxiety and feeling isolated during this crisis is normal and can be triggering for youth or young adult. Brainstorm ideas for social contacts, coping mechanisms, and stress management. Make sure youth or young adult have important contacts they can reach out to if they are in crisis.
- If you identify a youth or young adult who is in need of behavioral health services, talk to your Supervisor about mobilizing resources that can help.
- Discuss with the youth or young adult any concerns or worries they may have about being at home or spending time with partners or loved ones who make them feel unsafe. Let them know that you can help them find resources if they are experiencing any domestic or partner violence or abuse.
Ongoing Health Needs:
1. Does the youth or young adult have access to their health insurance card and know
how to use it?
- Let the youth or young adult know that COVID-19 testing is free regardless of type of (or lack of) insurance.
- Make sure the youth or young adult has a copy of their health insurance card or MassHealth medical passport.
2. What is the youth or young adult’s plan to maintain their ongoing health and behavioral health needs?
- Make sure the youth or young adult has enough prescription medication and refills to last at least the next month, coordinating with the youth or young adult’s medical provider. The DCF Medical Team can assist with this.
- Work with the youth or young adult to develop a plan for continued access to mental health treatment. Ask if they have the number for their therapist or counselor to see if remote sessions are available. The youth or young adult may need to check with their counselor to determine whether remote sessions would be covered by their insurance. Work with them to reach out to identify if remote access is available or to set it up. Make sure the youth or young adult has access to a smart phone or computer/laptop available to set this up.
3. Does the youth or young adult have any current or ongoing medical issues that will require attention during the crisis?
- Make sure the youth or young adult knows where to go for treatment and where to go if there is a crisis. Many regular medical services are being postponed or handled differently, and youth or young adults will need a plan to access necessary treatment. Make sure the youth or young adult has access to a smart phone or computer/laptop that will allow telemedicine health access whenever possible.
1. Is the youth or young adult in a stable and secure placement where their needs can be met?
- They need to be in a placement that they can remain in during the crisis. Make sure that they are in a placement where their health needs can be met, including those related to reducing their chances of contracting the virus.
- If the youth or young adult cannot remain in their current placement or is unsure if they can remain, talk to your Supervisor and Manager to develop a plan for moving the youth or young adult to another safe placement.
- If you have a youth or young adult who will be transitioning out of foster care soon, talk to your Supervisor and Manager to ensure that appropriate transition planning is taking place and adjust transition plans accordingly. This should include the identification of stable and appropriate housing.
- If the youth or young adult expresses that they want to leave their placement, advise them of the serious health risks of leaving a stable placement at this time. If they still plan to leave, develop a safety plan and help them strategize how to locate a safe place to stay.
2. Is the youth or young adult concerned about rent or utility payments?
- There are resources that can assist with this. Talk to your area office Adolescent Outreach Worker for more information.
If the youth or young adult does not have working electricity, gas or water, they should reach out immediately to their utility company.
3. Is the youth or young adult a college student who has been advised to move out of the dormitory?
- Contact youth or young adult in college immediately to assist them in making arrangements for housing if they are no longer permitted to remain on campus.
- Determine whether they can make requests to stay on campus if they would like to do so and help them create a communication plan and demonstrate why it is in their best interests to remain in on campus housing. Notify the Family Resource Unit immediately of a need for placement if they cannot or do not want to remain on campus. For students who find alternate housing but need temporary storage, U-Haul is offering 30 days of free self-storage for college students moving out of dorms: https://www.uhaul.com/Articles/About/20625/College-Students-U-Haul-Offers- 30Days-Free-Self-Storage-amid-Coronavirus-Outbreak/.
Food and Basic Needs:
1. Does the youth or young adult have enough food (or enough money for food) to get through the next few weeks?
- For young adults receiving young adult support payments, social workers can provide additional verification on a young adult’s budget. Talk to your area office Adolescent Outreach Worker for more information.
- Help the youth or young adult identify and connect with food delivery and food banks, and brainstorm strategies for the youth or young adult to get to their nearest food bank or food distribution site.
2. Does the youth or young adult have enough money to meet his or her basic and daily needs including clothing, hygiene items, and other necessities like transportation?
- Help youth or young adult create a budget that is considerate of the challenges posed by Covid-19. Check in with the youth or young adult and whether the budget is able to meet their needs and what services may supplement their income and young adult support payments. You can also talk to your area office Adolescent Outreach Worker if you identify any situations where additional support may be needed.
- Help the youth or young adult create a list of essential items they will need. You may be able to access financial assistance through the Wonderfund.
- Talk with the youth or young adult about their transportation needs. Make sure the youth or young adult understands what precautions to take if using public transportation to protect his or her health.
Education/Training and Employment
1. Has the youth or young adult’s coursework moved online?
- If the youth or young adult’s coursework has moved to online instruction, ask if they know how to access their school email address.
- If the youth or young adult was receiving supplemental tutoring or support, assist the youth or young adult in contacting the tutor or service to arrange for online/virtual one on one tutoring sessions if possible.
- Talk to the youth or young adult about reaching out to teachers or professors teaching their classes to communicate if they have issues completing coursework on time or attending class via video due to issues they may be having with living arrangements or internet connectivity.
2. Have college students received an update on housing or financial aid?
- Students who have moved off campus due to COVID-19 may see an adjustment to their bill for room and board. This is likely to generate a refund to the student to assist with cost of living expenses needed to sustain their academics for the semester. Students can log into their account to see what adjustments have been made to their accounts. If they have questions, students should be assisted with communicating with financial aid departments at their school to be counseled.
- All DCF college students receive additional support from the Adolescent Outreach Program and the Central Office Education and Training Specialists. Contact Laurie Hernandez at email@example.com or your area office Adolescent Outreach Worker to talk about what DCF resources are available to help a college student in foster care.
3. Is the youth or young adult’s work being affected during the crisis?
- If the youth or young adult was working and is now not permitted to come to work, check whether they are entitled to any paid time off or sick leave through their employer. Advise youth or young adult that they may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they meet certain criteria. The Intranet page for Adolescent and Young Adult Support Services or area office Adolescent Outreach Worker have additional information on this.
- For college students who had work-study jobs, help them check with their schools to see if they can continue to receive work-study payments and/or do work-study jobs remotely. Federal guidance has authorized schools to pay students who are losing work hours due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Staying Connected to Activities and People:
1. Is the youth or young adult staying in contact with people important to them?
- Assist youth or young adult in compiling a list of important contacts to keep with them during the crisis, such as your number and email, your Supervisor’s number and email, and numbers and emails for their PCP, therapist, parole officer if applicable, attorney if applicable, and family members/other supportive adults. You may even want to create this list together using your iPad and then email them a copy, so they have it in their email history.
- Consider ways to stay in contact with friends by phone or video calls or group chats. Social isolation and loneliness can be challenging. Encourage youth and young adults to make concerted efforts to stay in touch with their social networks.
2. What are they planning to do to stay busy?
- Discuss the importance of maintaining a good routine to combat the negative effects of social isolation. Consider topics such as waking up at the same time as usual, an exercise routine, going outside, schoolwork, or hobbies to fill the day.
Technology, Devices, and Internet Access:
1. Does the youth or young adult have sufficient access to phone and internet to meet their needs for the next several weeks?
- Ensure that the youth or young adult has a working cell phone that can be used throughout the crisis. Make sure that you have a backup number for the youth or young adult or an alternate means of contact if they lose service.
- DCF is able to provide assistance in obtaining phone or computer equipment for youth and young adults. Additionally, subsidized telephone and internet connectivity resources can be found here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/subsidized- telephone-and-internet-connectivity-information/download
1. Is the youth or young adult parenting and in need of immediate funds to meet basic
needs, like food or formula?
- Help the youth or young adult identify their unmet needs. In addition to applying for benefits through the Department of Transitional Assistance, there may be Area Office or community resources available to assist.
2. Does the youth or young adult have other immediate needs for themselves and their children?
- Ensure that the youth or young adult has the resources they need to provide activities and care for their child(ren), since daycares are now closed. Discuss with the youth or young adult how they will manage stress and keep it from affecting their parenting during the crisis.
- Ensure that the youth or young adult has a plan for meeting any health and other needs of their child(ren), including that they have reached out to the child’s pediatrician if there are upcoming visits or if they have ongoing medical concerns.