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Use of Teleconferencing in Family Support during Public Health Emergencies

A COVID-19 response protocol was first issued from ECI on 3/18/20. Throughout the COVID-19 health pandemic ECI has decided to follow the guidance issued by CDC and the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH). Updated guidance and sample templates are now available, effective October 16, 2020, and will remain in effect until further notice. 

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School Ready Allocation

Iowa law includes requirements for the use of School Ready (SR) funds in order to enhance current efforts to provide family support services and parent education programs for families with children. Please refer to 2561.9 SCHOOL READY GRANT PROGRAM in Iowa Code for more information.

Early Childhood Iowa Family Support Outcomes Include:

  • Improve family functioning, problem solving and communication;
  • Increase social support for families;
  • Connect families to additional concrete supports;
  • Increase knowledge about child development and parenting; and
  • Improve nurturing and attachment between parent and child.

The goal of Early Childhood Iowa is to balance the provision of family support services with the health and safety of family support staff, families and children served. Local Early Childhood Iowa Area boards and their contracted family support programs must consider the delivery of services given the current COVID-19 status of the county in which services will be provided. In order to protect participating families and providers from COVID-19 during family support services, we are committed to continuing to provide virtual family support services (video and telephone visits).

Early Childhood Iowa also understands there are very unique circumstances that require an in-person visit. The questions below should be considered when determining if an in-person visit is necessary in order to provide family support services to an eligible family. Area boards along with funded family support programs should adopt a local policy and process. 

If an area board and the program determine that they will allow home visiting programs to conduct an in-person visit, the ECI Office suggests areas follow the" If, Then" protocol of considerations on the next page to determine whether a virtual service will meet the family's needs, or if an in-person visit is required. Family support professionals should consult with their supervisor and obtain approval for each family receiving an in-person visit as virtual family support services are currently recommended as best practice in the current public health pandemic due to COVID-19.  The family support professional and supervisor should document the: “If, Then” protocol of considerations and indicate why they were rejected.  The ECI Area Director will let the program know what data items are needed and will inform the family support program of their board adopted policy and procedure requirements. 

If it is deemed that a family will receive in-person visits, the ECI State Office also needs to be notified.  This information is for data gathering purposes and is needed by the State Office in case questions come from state or federal sources. To share the data, a shared Google Sheet document has been created in the ECI Area Directors Documents Google folder to provide the information. The notification should be added into the Google document within five business days of the in-person contact occurring.

In-person visits should be on a case-by-case basis and guided by the above scenarios. If an in-person visit is approved by the family support supervisor and the ECI Area Board, the following procedures are expected of all family support professionals:

Prior to a Visit

  • Ensure you, anyone in your household or anyone that you have been in contact with, has not been diagnosed with or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Take your temperature just prior to each visit. Do not move forward with a visit if concerns arise from this screening process and follow your agency’s procedures related to potential COVID-19 exposure.
  • Complete the pre-home visit family screening process with each family within 24 hours of the scheduled visit. If the family does not meet the criteria based on their answers, do not move forward with the in-person visit and switch to a virtual visit. Maintain this documentation.

During the Visit

  • Conduct the in-person visit in a safe manner by adhering to the following:
    • Conduct temperature checks upon arrival for the parent/caregiver and child – do not move forward with the visit if anyone has a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or is displaying symptoms.
    • Conduct the visit in a location with only the parent/caregiver and child present – if unable to limit adults or other children, do not move forward with the visit.
    • Limit use of agency materials/equipment and avoid cloth materials that cannot be easily sanitized.
    • Wear a face covering for the duration of the entire in-person visit. Note: children under the age of 3 are not required to wear a mask – per CDC guidance, masks should not be placed on children 2 years of age or younger.
    • If a parent/caregiver refuses to wear a face covering, they must agree to adhere to the following conditions:
      • The visit must take place in an outdoor location.
      • The family member must remain at least 6 feet from the provider at all times.
      • The family support professional has the right to terminate the visit if the family member does not adhere to the required conditions during the in-person visit.
      • The family member has the right to terminate the visit at any time and for any reason.
    • Follow CDC guidelines for handwashing or use of hand sanitizer upon arrival and departure.
    • Do not bring personal items beyond what is needed for the visit (this includes no food/drink).

After the Visit

  • Follow CDC guidelines regarding handwashing or use of hand sanitizer.
  • Clean all agency materials/equipment.
  • Pack any contaminated items in a lidded container (or a plastic bag tied shut) for future cleaning if unable to clean immediately.

The questions below should be considered when determining if an in-person visit is necessary in order to provide family support services to an eligible family. Follow the" If, Then" protocol of considerations on the next page to determine whether a virtual service will meet the family's needs, or if an in-person visit is required.

If...Then Summary of Scenarios to Considerations 
The family requests face-to-face services and the family support professional (FSP), FSP Supervisor determines that virtual services are effective Provide virtual family support services  
The family requests face-to-face services and virtual services aren’t effective Begin working through the additional questions and considerations in the order presented below  
The family requests virtual services - The FSP and the FSP Supervisor thinks virtual services will work and the parent has access Provide virtual family support services What training does the parent need to access the virtual services or use the technology?
The FSP and the FSP Supervisor thinks virtual services will work but the parent doesn’t have access

The FSP and the FSP Supervisor should identify the barrier(s) to access

Is the issue due to a lack of connectivity?

Is the issue due to the family not having a device?
The issue is a lack of connectivity, or a lack of data or minutes, or the lack of a device  The FSP and the FSP Supervisor should apply for a loaner phone and plan through the Phones for Families program.

What training will the family need to use the loaner phone?

Is the cell service sufficient in the geographic area for the loaner phone to be effective?
Virtual services aren’t possible because of a lack of cell service in the geographic area, and - The family is willing to meet outside in a natural environment (i.e., yard, park)

The FSP and Supervisor consult with the ECI Area Director to discuss the need for an in-person visit when no other alternative is available.

Provide services in the outside natural environment as identified.

Complete a health screening for yourself and every member of the family that will be present.

Maintain social distance, wear a cloth face covering and wash hands before and after the visit.

Are restroom facilities available?

Will the family be able to access transportation without an undue burden?

Ensure that you have documented that all other service delivery strategies were explored and the reason they were not available. 

Provide the necessary data to the State ECI Office as listed in the Google drive

Virtual services and providing services outside aren’t possible, and

the family is willing to travel to another location

The FSP and Supervisor consult with the ECI Area Director to discuss the need for an in-person visit when no other alternative is available.

Provide services in a community-based setting (i.e., library, community center, the ECI or family support office)

Complete a health screening for yourself and every member of the family that will be present.

Maintain social distance, wear a cloth face covering and wash hands before and after the visit.

The FSP and Supervisor consult with the ECI Area Director to discuss the need for an in-person visit when no other alternative is available.

Provide the in-person service in the family’s home maintaining social distance, wearing a cloth face covering and washing hands before and after the visit. 

Complete a health screening for yourself and every member of the family that will be present.

Does the location allow for 6 feet social distancing?

Does the location allow for individuals to use the facility for services other than what would normally be provided?

When can the location be accessed?  Does the family have access to transportation for him/herself without an undue burden?

Ensure that you have documented that all other service delivery strategies were explored and the reason they were not available. 

Provide the necessary data to the State ECI Office as listed in the Google drive

What must be done during the home visit?

Ensure that you have documented that all other service delivery strategies were explored and the reason they were not available. 

Provide the necessary data to the State ECI Office as listed in the Google drive