Important answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Some include who we serve, how we serve and how to enroll.
Prospective Requesting Agencies, Agency Exec, Agency Rep, Agency Worker
Q: What measures are churches trained to take to protect the health of the families they serve?
A: Churches hear us highlight and emphasize both general tips and practical guidelines about how to serve safely during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Generally, we emphasize basic hygiene practices like hand washing and staying home if they feel unwell since we know simple things like this greatly limit exposure to the coronavirus. We point churches to get their information and recommendations directly from the Centers for Disease Control as well as the World Health Organization.
Practically, we want churches to be equipped to respond in meaningful and effective ways. In cases where churches could previously interact closely with families in their homes, we’re letting churches know that it’s best they keep their distance, wear face coverings, and opt for leaving the needed items on the front stoop rather than handing them to the family personally. We’re thankful that we live at a time when churches can arrange the best time to bring these resources to the family by calling or texting them rather than knocking on their door.
Additional Resource: How to Safely Serve (blog article)
Q: How does the connection process actually work?
A: This process has successfully worked to serve more than 58,000 children over the last five years, honoring confidentiality in the process. Here’s how it works:
- Caseworkers identify a need and, with the family’s permission, enter the request using only non-confidential information into the CarePortal platform (online or via our mobile app).
- The request is first sent for approval to a supervisor or the person designated as your Agency Representative. At this step, the request can be edited, approved, or declined.
- Once approved, the request is sent to the closest churches to the family in need. Churches have several options for how they can equip their members and various ministries to respond.
- If a church does respond, the caseworker is immediately notified and given the church responder’s contact information. The responder will also receive the caseworker’s contact information.
- Once this connection is made, the process will depend on what’s best for the family and the logistics that are required. It’s common for caseworkers to remain involved as a resource for the church and an additional advocate for the family. Most requests will involve the responding church to communicate directly with the family in need, but in some cases, the church is asked to meet the request through the caseworker as an intermediary.
Additional Resource: Disaster Relief 101: Agencies (video)
Q: When should a request be closed?
A: A request could be closed by the caseworker as early as when a response from a church has been made and meaningful conversations have begun about meeting the request. The CarePortal platform also gives caseworkers the ability to Pause each request, which prevents new responses from being made by churches and community responders. This could be used to represent a request that is in the process of being met without fully closing it yet, just in case something falls through with the first response. At the very latest, we ask that requests are closed out promptly after the needed items or services have been provided to the family.
Q: What measures are in place that will protect my clients?
A: The protection of vulnerable families begins before the request is even entered into the CarePortal platform. Each caseworker that submits requests is given training by their agency in collaboration with a CarePortal expert about how to identify a request and what kind of permission is needed by the family to enter a request on their behalf into the platform. These requests will never contain confidential or personal information of the family needing assistance and should be written in a way that also protects their dignity.
When a church responds, their only access to the family is through the caseworker who submitted the request. Workers are welcome to be present at the time of the church arriving to serve the family, and in cases where circumstances are extra sensitive, workers are able to receive the family’s needed items on their behalf. This is done in a minority of CarePortal requests but churches are trained to understand this may be the case at times.
Churches and their teams also receive specialized training to understand how to serve their neighbors with accountability and dignity. Each church is able to approve only the volunteers they would allow to represent their church, which often includes the same background check process that one would expect for childcare workers.
It’s also important to note that Tier 1 requests are defined as those opportunities where there is an adult caregiver in the home that is able to interact directly with a church’s responders. For these types of requests, there is no one-on-one or unsupervised interaction between minors and church responders.
Q: What if a family or individual is in desperate need of help but does not wish to be contacted by a church?
A: In extra sensitive circumstances, workers can decide to receive the requested items on behalf of the family in need. If the problem or concern is that the family is embarrassed to meet the church responders, we would ask the caseworker to encourage the family to be open to making new, healthy connections in their community in the same way that the caseworker might encourage the family to participate in a parenting class, counseling, or other services that provide a direct benefit to them by reducing isolation and restoring healthy connections.
This connection will never be forced, however, and if the family simply refuses the opportunity to meet or interact with the church responders, the church is trained to understand and respect that privacy.
Q: I know that these needs are going to Christian churches. Will families in need face discrimination based upon religion or any other characteristic?
A: No. Care must be unconditional. If we learn that a church is trying to force views on a family in need as a condition of care, that church will be removed from CarePortal access.
Q: How do I know when my agency can begin submitting requests?
A: When a member of our team makes your county active, you will receive an email notification that you may begin entering requests for the children and families you’re working with.
Q: My agency is set up to submit both Child-Centered and Disaster Relief requests. How do I know when it is appropriate to choose one over the other?
A: Disaster Relief categories should be used when the circumstance the family is being affected by is related to the natural disaster that has recently occurred in that community. Categories for disaster relief requests include supporting an emergency worker, helping families with emergency essentials or food needs, and helping families avoid homelessness. If the request does not fit into one of those categories, it should be made as a child-centered request, provided it meets those qualifications.
Q: What happens after disaster relief is no longer needed in my area?
A: We will determine in a local context (county by county) when to disable the disaster relief functionality and communicate that to you ahead of time to make sure your agency has time to prepare. If CarePortal was not active in your area before the disaster relief efforts began, our goal is for the platform to continue being used to facilitate connections between local churches and vulnerable families through agency requests. Our team will make every effort to make that possible by having agencies who are approved for disaster relief and who have a child-centered focus in their work to become child-centered requesting agencies. This would represent an ongoing partnership rather than the temporary nature of disaster relief status.