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Boscola Bulletin

Children & COVID-19

Our children and COVID-19The coronavirus outbreak, as well as the statewide stay-at-home order, may make some people feel isolated, depressed, bored. That's especially true for our children. As we all are well aware, without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our day-to-day lives upside down.

For children, that means online or distance learning, away from their teachers and friends at school, and even though we are trying to continue with face-to-face interaction through Zoom and video chats, it's not the same as the daily human interaction we once took for granted a short time ago.
Stress and anxiety are hard to identify in children at times and don’t always present in a way we would expect to see – parents and caregivers please make sure to be aware of any changes in eating and sleeping habits, concentration, and social interaction (albiet limited these days!).

Approach Your Kids and Ask What They Know

Most children will have heard about COVID-19, particularly school-age kids and adolescents. They may have read things online, seen something on TV, or heard friends or teachers talk about the illness. Others may have overheard you talking about it. There is a lot of misinformation out there, so don’t assume that they know specifics about the situation or that the information they have is correct. Ask open ended questions:

  • What have you heard about the coronavirus?
  • Where did you hear about it?
  • What are your major concerns or worries?
  • Do you have any questions I can help you answer?
  • How are you feeling about the Coronavirus?

What You Can do if you are at higher risk of severe illness from COVIDChildren may have mild symptoms

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally shown mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported.

It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs. There is more to learn about how the disease impacts children. You can learn more about who is most at risk for health problems if they have COVID-19 infection on Are You at Higher Risk for Severe Illness.

Take steps to protect children and others from getting sick

Help stop the spread of COVID-19 by doing the same things everyone should do to stay healthy. Teach your children to do the same.

  • Mother and child wear facemask during coronavirus and flu outbreak. Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing).
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (like tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, and sinks).
  • Launder items including washable plush toys as needed. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

The coronavirus outbreak and the statewide stay-at-home orders may make some people feel isolated, depressed and bored. That's especially true for children.

Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic and the response to it have turned our day-to-day lives upside down.

For children, that means online or distance learning away from their teachers and friends at school. And while FaceTime and video chats allow kids to connect, it's not the same as human contact.

Human Services Secretary Encourages All Pennsylvanians to Help Report Child Abuse Amidst COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and Angela Liddle, President and CEO of the PA Family Support Alliance, today reminded Pennsylvanians that DHS’ ChildLine, a 24/7 hotline for reporting concerns of child abuse or neglect, is still fully operational and available at 1-800-932-0313 for Pennsylvanians seeking to report potential cases of child abuse or neglect. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and as scheduled recognition activities and regular life has shifted due to COVID-19, DHS and child welfare advocates implore all Pennsylvanians to learn signs of potential abuse or neglect and, if they suspect abuse, make the call to ChildLine.

“As we navigate this public health crisis and the necessary disruptions, we cannot lose sight of our obligation to do all we can to keep kids safe and prevent child abuse, and the Wolf Administration is not compromising that duty,” said Secretary Miller. “Life has changed, but we all can still do what we are able to look out for children in and around our lives. Whether it is a neighbor, family member, student, client, or someone you encounter in a store – if you suspect something is wrong, anyone can call ChildLine and make a report.”

ChildLine is available 24/7 to anyone wishing to report child abuse and general child well-being concerns at 1-800-932-0313 and at www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov. Mandated reporters should report online. ChildLine supervisors are constantly monitoring calls and assuring proper response and assignment to county agencies for investigation of all incoming reports. ChildLine response will not change because staff are teleworking from their homes, and Pennsylvanians who suspect abuse or neglect should help protect children by making the call to ChildLine.

Since March 19, calls to ChildLine have ranged from a daily low of 287 calls to a high of 365 calls on weekdays. The number of calls on Saturdays and Sundays is lower – ranging from 138 to 169 calls per day. These numbers represent a roughly 50 percent reduction in average daily calls to ChildLine since the commonwealth’s implementation of significant social-distancing measures advised by public-health professionals to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and save lives.

Child Protective Services 2018 Annual ReportDecreased calls do not mean that abuse and neglect is not occurring. Rather, one unfortunate effect of school closures is the limited interaction between children, their teachers and other mandated reporters in school settings. Of the 39,040 reports made by mandated reporters to ChildLine in 2018, more than a third were reported by school employees.

Anyone can make a report to ChildLine, and if you are not a mandated reporter, calls made to ChildLine are anonymous. DHS is encouraging all Pennsylvanians to learn more about the signs of potential abuse or neglect and make a report to ChildLine if they begin to suspect abuse or neglect. Reporters do not have to prove abuse and neglect, and reporting to ChildLine allows trained child welfare and law enforcement professionals to properly investigate cases of suspected abuse.

“Each and every one of us can play a role in protecting children from abuse or neglect. You do not have to be a mandated reporter to protect a child by making the call to ChildLine,” said Secretary Miller. “Making the call allows trained child welfare professionals and, if necessary, law enforcement to follow up, collect information, and determine if assistive services or other intervention is necessary.”

Signs of potential abuse or neglect can include:

  • Numerous and/or unexplained injuries or bruises;
  • Chronic, pronounced anxiety and expressed feelings of inadequacy;
  • Flinching or an avoidance to being touched;
  • Poor impulse control;
  • Demonstrating abusive behavior or talk;
  • Cruelty to animals or others; and,
  • Fear of parent or caregiver, among others.

Social distancing measures and closure of schools may cause other behaviors or changes to arise that could indicate a concern. Neighbors, teachers participating in virtual schooling, extended family, and others who interact with families and children should be cognizant of:

  • Changes in a child’s behavior or mood;
  • Noticeable changes in a child’s weight or physical appearance that could suggest concerns with care; and,
  • Significant changes in participation and engagement in school activities.

“Due to social distancing, children are not in school and that extra set of eyes from their teachers, bus drivers, daycare workers just isn’t there,” said Angela Liddle, President and CEO of the Pa Family Support Alliance. “This is a very difficult time for parents, caregivers, and families who are dealing with an enormous amount of stress and that can lead to a higher risk for potential abuse. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and we want to encourage everyone to check-in on the children in your life through virtual means with phone calls and video conferencing during this pandemic. If you suspect that something is wrong, please don’t hesitate and call ChildLine immediately. It’s more important than ever for all of us to come together and protect Pennsylvania’s children.”

2-1-1 DHS also encourages parents and families who are struggling to cope during this time of crisis to reach out for help. Anyone struggling with mental health and in need of referrals to helpful programs can call Pennsylvania’s new Support & Referral Helpline, which is operated 24/7 by skilled caseworkers who can provide emotional support during this difficult period. The number to call is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600. Another helpful resource is the 2-1-1 hotline operated by the United Way, which can connect people and families to local resources that can help during the public health crisis.

Visit pa.gov for a “Responding to COVID-19” guide or the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s dedicated Coronavirus webpage for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19.

Guidance to DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.

Human Services Announces CHIP to Maintain Enrollment for Families During COVID-19 Crisis

The Department of Human Services (DHS) yesterday announced that it is making temporary changes to Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to keep families enrolled in CHIP for the duration of the public health emergency and to ease access to medical services for children being screened or receiving treatment for COVID-19.

COVID-19 has created economic challenges for families across Pennsylvania, and we want to be sure that families are able to keep health care coverage to protect themselves and their children during this time. These changes are designed to ease access to CHIP and to keep families enrolled in health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The following changes are in effect for CHIP until the end of the public health emergency:

  • Families will not be denied or disenrolled from coverage for administrative or financial reasons. An example of an administrative reason is not being able to provide proof of income.
  • Families will not pay a copay for services that are for COVID-19 screening, testing or treatment.
  • Families who cannot provide paperwork to verify information on an application or renewal, can provide self-attestation of information by signing the application or renewal.
  • Families will be given more time to pay premiums, if needed.

Families still must provide verification of information presented on an application, and are still responsible for copays for services not related to COVID-19. Testing and treatment services related to COVID-19 are covered. Families are also still responsible to pay premiums if applicable.

If a family is unable to pay premiums because of a decrease or loss of income, the family must contact their managed care organization immediately and can request the MCO to perform a “reassessment” because of an income change at any time.
Details on how to apply for CHIP can be found here.

Guidance to DHS providers related to COVID-19 is available here.

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

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