Olympia – The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) is exercising universal precautions in response to the national and statewide concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency is taking preventative measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of young people in our Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR) Program.

“Our proactive response to this virus is critical as we address the safety, health and wellness of our staff and the young people in our care. Our goal is to prevent the spread of the virus and mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Our success depends on everyone following the recognized safety protocols designed to limit exposure to COVID-19 and reduce the number of people contracting the coronavirus,” said JR Assistant Secretary Marybeth Queral.

With safety in mind, DCYF has halted in-person visitation with youth. The agency now employs video and telephonic visitation to protect the young people in care. All staff, vendors and contractors entering 24/7 JR facilities are pre-screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Before they enter DCYF facilities, we are also asking all staff, vendors and contractors whether they or anyone in their household are showing symptoms. Additionally, nurses are screening youth for fever, cough and shortness of breath prior to any transfers from one of our institutions to a community facility. A youth exhibiting any one of these systems will not be transferred, and a follow-up with a medical professional will be provided.

For youth on parole supervision, parole staff members are contacting parents or guardians by phone before any scheduled meetings. We are conducting pre-screening for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure to anyone showing possible signs of coronavirus. Parole staff are making alternate arrangements for youth meetings, including phone and video conferencing.

Infectious disease experts designed these procedures informed by the science of how to respond to infectious disease in congregate care settings. They are built into our infectious disease protocols, continuity of operations plans, emergency operations and disaster response preparations. Additionally, best practices and standards are shared among all state agencies that run 24/7 facilities.

DCYF is committed to fulfilling its mission to protect children and strengthen families so they flourish. For the latest information and guidance, the public is urged to visit DCYF’s COVID-19 website:https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/coronavirus-covid-19.