Learning from COVID-19: An Early Analysis of “Pain Points” in Congregate Care for Unaccompanied Children in Pandemic

By USCRI October 5, 2020

Readers will be well aware that the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. While many scientific questions about COVID-19 remain, scientists and public-health officials are reasonably certain about a number of aspects of the virus. Transmission is primarily airborne. Individuals have several days between contracting the virus and becoming symptomatic. A large proportion of people afflicted with COVID-19 will remain asymptomatic. Asymptomatic individuals can transmit the virus. And so on. With this knowledge, individuals have largely learned to live with COVID-19—working from home, social distancing, and wearing masks while in the proximity of others. So too have organizations. COVID-19 presented challenges to congregate-care facilities, famously at nursing homes but also for facilities that care for unaccompanied children (UCs). The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) operates a network of grantee facilities that provide care for UCs in the United States. UC care providers were put under tremendous strain by COVID-19, especially in the early period when knowledge was much less certain than it is now. Today, UC care providers have established policies and procedures for keeping UCs in their care safe, controlling subsequent infection when a child is diagnosed positive, and preventing onward spread of disease. USCRI regularly talks with several care providers and organizes an affinity group that meets quarterly, and this brief is based on those ongoing conversations.

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