Supporting youth through the COVID-19 pandemic

March 30, 2020

March 30, 2020, marks the third week in which many people in Colorado began working from home, practicing social distancing and canceling events. These changes, particularly the changes to work schedules and in-person gatherings, can disproportionately impact youth who have experienced abuse and neglect.

The youth services team within the CDHS Division of Child Welfare responded to support youth, grantees, counties and community partners. Counties and organizations have already been contacted regarding these changes and new funding sources.

The Colorado Statewide Youth Development Plan (SYDP) has provided 10 mini-grants to organizations that serve children and youth ages 0-24 in Colorado and are facing hardship as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis. Organizations awarded can provide Colorado children, youth and families with cash assistance, funding for groceries, help with emergency household expenses, services such as counseling, or employment assistance.

Using unspent funds from training and technical assistance scholarships and the canceled Shared Risk & Protective Factors Conference, the Tony Grampsas Youth Services (TGYS) Board approved the reallocation of funds for scholarships to grantees providing emergency response to children, youth and families due to COVID-19. Each TGYS grantee may apply for one emergency response scholarship.  Scholarships range from $1,500-$5,000 and can be used for funding for groceries and other household goods, restocking food pantries, emergency housing or utility assistance, and other community needs as determined by the grantees. Additionally, the TGYS board unanimously voted to permit grantees the flexibility to use their existing grant funds as they adapt and respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood was able to provide an additional $36,000 to provide emergency-based funding to Chafee-eligible youth at risk of becoming homeless due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Chafee program, administered by counties in Colorado, assists youth in making a successful transition to adulthood. The emergency funding was specifically for youth who are no longer involved in a child welfare case and may have had no other support immediately accessible. Additionally, the Education and Training Voucher Program, which provides funding for tuition and living expenses for post-secondary learning, is providing emergency funding to address the housing needs of students who are receiving ETV and are at-risk of homelessness due to COVID-19. 

Chafee is also providing 43 Kindle Fires for Chafee-eligible youth. Youth-serving professionals completed an application to request these Kindle Fires on behalf of youth. Kindle Fires will be given to youth who need them for vital communication with family or other supports or completion of school work and employment.

Finally, to support housing stability, the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) Program is increasing access to emergency funds for youth in Structured Independent Living Placements.  URM Program youth living in SILP will continue to receive case management services virtually or in-person at a safe distance on an as-needed basis. Many of these youth work in employment sectors most impacted by changes in public transportation availability and decreased work hours. Changes to the emergency funds for youth in SILPs will keep these youth in their homes and stable during this period of rapid change and uncertainty which will benefit their economic, social, and cultural integration.

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Anyone witnessing a child in a life-threatening situation should call 911 immediately.