Law Enforcement and Juvenile Justice

Urban Youth Trauma Center | COVID-19 Best Practices

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Law Enforcement and Juvenile Justice

UYTC COVID Best Practices 04COVID-19 Best Practices for Trauma Intervention
Law Enforcement and Juvenile Justice
Know the signs… be supportive
Living through a global pandemic such a COVID-19 can lead to a range of social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems. It is important that individuals are able to identify the signs that children and youth may be struggling and know the best ways that they can provide support.
  • Understand that this can be a very stressful time for families. Become familiar with information regarding services available in your area to help with financial hardship as a result of job loss, food insecurity, internet services, inability to access services due to no transportation, etc.
  • While attending to the physical health of youth in custody during this time is critical, it is also important to continue to monitor their mental health and to help young people understand and process what is going on and what they can do to stay safe and healthy
  • If in-person visitation with mental health staff is not possible during this time, facilities should use a systematic approach to ensure that there is some way for youth to connect with counseling staff and for mental health screenings and risk assessments to still be completed.
A sense of Trust
The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and youth to feel that they cannot rely on anyone for safety or support. The presence of positive and stable relationships is extremely important. The care and support provided by caregivers and other adults can help with positive development and resiliency.
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  • The community trusts you to be honest and straightforward. Be intentional in what you share with them regarding the virus in your community and make sure your information is from a trusted source.
  • During this time, many caregivers will be concerned about the safety of their child who is in custody and rely on officers to provide information about how facilities are protecting the health of those in custody. Officers or case managers should be in contact with families to provide regular updates and information about the safety and wellbeing of their children.
  • Like most children, youth in custody are likely experiencing a lot of anxiety about their safety and could benefit from communication with those that they trust. While in-person visitation may not be possible, facilities should identify a way to ensure that youth have a way to contact their families and loved ones. If visitation is allowed, the facility should consider staggering visitation times to increase social distancing and make sure those who are sick utilize video or phone calls only.
A sense of Mastery
Changes in normal routines and the transition to at-home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and adolescents to develop low self-esteem, poor self-mastery, and the belief that they are unable to accomplish tasks or develop new skills. It is important to support children and youth who may be struggling during this time and work with them on building new skills and developing a sense of mastery.
  • Many facilities have taken the step of reducing or eliminating activities to avoid potential spread of the virus. In order to reduce idle time and continue to support the development, wellbeing, and safety of young people, staff should try to identify positive and productive activities that can be used to fill these gaps.
  • Staff should make all efforts to ensure that students are able to continue with academic learning. Distance learning should be utilized if possible and coursework and educational materials should continue to be provided to youth.
Feeling Safe
The uncertainty surrounding this virus, daily media reports, shelter in place policies, and constantly changing information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic may cause children and youth to feel unsafe or concerned about their family’s wellbeing. It is important to work towards creating an environment where individuals can feel safe by helping to identify safe spaces, building supportive relationships, and discussing ways to stay safe and healthy.
  • Ensure all personnel have access to and are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when having any contact with community members who have or may have COVID-19. Your facility should also have a plan for exposure control and participate in a training focused on the use of PPE for respiratory protection, if available.
  • Have a trained Emergency Medical Service/ Emergency Medical Technician (EMS/EMT) assess and transport any Community members youth that you think might have COVID-19 to a healthcare facility.
  • Despite the current shelter in place or stay at home orders, community violence remains a major issue of concern and may impact youth even more while schools are closed. Continue to work with the community on violence prevention and safety strategies.
  • While this pandemic is unlike anything our country has seen before, it is important to ensure that all youth justice agencies develop a complete safety plan to ensure comprehensive and coordinated implementation across the entire agency. This includes ensuring all staff and youth have proper access to cleaning and sanitation supplies, and that there are procedures in place to sanitize all surfaces throughout the day.
  • As juvenile justice facilities implement procedures to increase the safety of youth, identify and separate youth with pre-existing medical conditions that put them at high risk. This recommendation, it should be noted, is not a suggestion that youth be placed in solitary or conditions that in any way resemble it.
Changing the Message
The information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic changes daily and children and youth are getting information from multiple sources. It is important to identify their current beliefs regarding COVID-19, promote positive thinking regarding recovery, continue reviewing ways to stay safe, and avoid spreading false information.
  • Officers on patrol should provide frequent, accurate, and timely information to the public regarding shelter in place orders. Effective partnerships between the police and communities will ensure higher levels of compliance, especially regarding voluntary quarantine and social distancing.
  • Try to decrease the stigma surrounding COVID-19 and utilize first person language. For example, say “people who have COVID-19” or “people who are recovering from COVID-19” instead of saying “COVID-19 victim”.
  • This is an unprecedented time, which means that there will be a lot of misinformation, rumors, and conflicting messages circulating. When possible, find opportunities to spread factual information about the virus and have talks with community members about the virus and what they can do to stay safe. 

Share Your Story! Using the hash tags #PromotingPandemicPeace and #UYTC, share examples of how you are using the best practice strategies to help yourself, your family, or others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click UYTC Coping with COVID-19 Best Practices Fact Sheet to download a printable copy for all youth providers and audiences.


Share Your Story! Take the Pledge!

We would like you to join our campaign by writing down your pledge for how you plan to use the best practice strategies to help yourself, your family, or others during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can share your pledge on social media using the hashtags #PromotingPandemicPeace, #UYTC, and #COVID19

Click COVID-19 Campaign Instructions and Pledge Sheet to download a printable copy.