Youth Villages stories

What is Youth Villages doing concerning COVID-19?

Dec 17, 2020

Youth Villages is continuing to monitor the developments around the COVID-19 pandemic. Our response to the virus is guided by several Youth Villages values – “Kids’ needs come first… always;” “We provide a safe place;” and “We are committed to our staff,” as well as established health protocols and procedures provided by the CDC and health departments across the country.

As we are months into the pandemic, Youth Villages has detailed infectious disease protocols that meet Joint Commission and individual state regulations. In some cases, states are issuing new restrictions and recommendations around the virus, particularly as cases climb, and we are following those. As always, our focus is on the health and well-being of the children, families and young people we serve, as well as that of our dedicated staff.

EDUCATION
In response to the virus, we are continually receiving guidance from our states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services around family sessions. We are now allowed more flexibility in meeting families’ needs. Our specialists meet with thousands of families and young people several times each week face-to-face through telehealth and when required, safely through in-person meetings while wearing masks and practicing social distancing measures.

In sessions, our specialists reinforce health education around limiting the virus’ spread and can help families access health care and testing if needed.

We are ensuring families and young people know the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Joint Commission. Their recommendations include:

  • Wear a mask when in public or around those outside of your own household.
  • Practice safe social distancing measures (six feet of space or more) when around others.
  • Wash hands frequently and for 20 seconds. Washing hands often under clean, running water can help prevent the spread of germs. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60-95% alcohol.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes, then dispose of the tissue. When a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. 

COMMUNITY-BASED PROGRAMS
Our community-based staff began performing a health assessment screening over the phone before conducting an in-person session on March 12. Based on that assessment, we can help families or young people make appropriate health decisions and plan for safe sessions for our staff.

As part of updated COVID-19 precautions and protocols, Youth Villages has added new guidelines to protect the health of staff.

Community-based staff who can effectively do their tasks and jobs remotely may work from home and avoid coming into the office. In most places, this means that only regional managers and higher leadership, plus office managers/receptionists, could be in the office daily.

We will be screening staff and essential visitors to community-based offices.

  • Temperature screenings will be done by free-standing infrared temperature scanners when possible, or by office managers/receptionist if needed. If not, the leader of the office will approve all persons coming to the office and set up a screening protocol based on that particular office logistics.
  • All staff will enter the front door of the office and report to the receptionist/office manager or leadership.
  • They will be asked the same screening questions we are asking our families, vendors and visitors.
    • Are you feeling sick or having symptoms today?
    • Have you been around anyone that has been sick?
    • Have you traveled to CDC high-risk areas recently?
    • Have you been around anyone that has traveled to those areas?

If they answer yes to any of these questions, they cannot enter the office.

Our work is vital, and Youth Villages leadership is constantly monitoring information around the virus so that we can be nimble and flexible and meet our responsibilities.

ON OUR RESIDENTIAL CAMPUSES
Every month, hundreds of volunteers and mentors interact with children and youth receiving help on our residential treatment campuses and group homes in Tennessee and Georgia. These activities — that range from individual mentoring, to birthday parties for a child’s group, to spiritual life programs — can be life-changing and a key to a child’s progress in overcoming emotional and behavioral problems. The fact that people in the community care about them is always healing for our children.

In the immediate term, for the safety and well-being of everyone, all volunteer direct contact with youth is currently suspended. Some volunteers are coming to campus in small numbers (five or less) and doing no-contact activities. Mentors are encouraged to keep in contact with youth through regular telephone calls.

Other safety measures we have implemented:

  • All staff are required to wear masks when in common areas or in close proximity to other staff members.
  • Thermal thermometers are now in use to help in the screening process if visitors are on campuses and for group homes.
  • All vendors and delivery persons will drop packages inside the front door and avoid coming to the receptionist desk. If signature is needed, the office manager/receptionist can meet them at the door and thoroughly wash hands afterward. 

Admissions: We are completing a health screening 48 hours prior to admission to ensure youth are fever-free and have not visited a risk location as indicated by the CDC.

Passes: At this time the only youth receiving passes are those with imminent stepdown where a pass is required in order for stepdown or return to home to successfully occur. Also, youth with existing court orders mandating passes will be allowed passes.

Visitors: We have limited visitation and specific protocols in place to reduce exposure risk. Each campus has specific hours, spacing, locations, limited hours (e.g. time limits on visits), limited number of family members, no outside items brought in, no food, masks must be worn, etc. Full protocols are available to those allowed visitation.

Outings: Any outings must be approved by executive directors prior to taking place. 

Environmental Services: The environmental staff along with the program staff will implement additional disinfectant cleanings.

Nursing Protocols: The nursing staff have reviewed our quarantine protocols for flu. Nursing staff are working with the local hospitals, CDC updates, and WHO updates to ensure we are current on the practices for coronavirus.

Staffing: The leadership has reviewed the staffing needs and back up plans if the available staff becomes limited. There is a plan for additional food and water on the campus for a 14 day period.

Quarantine: If any youth develops symptoms, quarantine protocols will be implemented.

ADDITIONAL TRAINING AND SANITIZING
All 3,000-plus Youth Villages staff members completed an infectious disease online booster training in the next week. Janitorial staff have increased the frequency of cleaning in high-traffic areas in all of our buildings. We also utilize environmental cleaning services when necessary.

LIMITING STAFF TRAVEL
Youth Villages is following CDC guidelines on travel. Business travel is on an as-needed basis. We are encouraging our staff to follow protocols in place by the CDC for personal travel and following social distancing guidelines if travel is necessary. 

This year, Youth Villages will help more than 30,000 children, families and young people in 21 states, and we know that COVID-19’s impact is different in every location right now. We are continually monitoring developments and will adapt protocols to best meet the health needs of our children, families, young people and staff. We appreciate your continued support of Youth Villages.

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