This document provides suggestions and resources for family members and caregivers of children and youth with special health care needs. We understand that families and caregivers may face unique challenges and stresses during the COVID-19 pandemic. See end of this page for list of resources that may help support families and caregivers during this time. This document was last updated April 8, 2020.
In addition to general guidance such as physical distancing and washing hands frequently, here are some suggestions specifically for families and caregivers of children and youth with special health care needs:
- Limit non-essential visits to health care providers or clinics. You may be able to get your needs met with a phone or video appointment, or postpone. Work with your doctor and other providers (e.g. physical or occupational therapy) to determine which visits are essential.
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping routine immunization appointments for infants and young children.
- If you do need to take your child to a medical appointment, call ahead. Many offices and clinics have new guidelines for non-urgent care.
- If your child has a medical emergency and needs to go to the hospital, call ahead to see if admitting practices or locations have changed. Ask if you can avoid being admitted through the Emergency Department.
- You may be able to get a 90-day supply of medication at one time to cut down on unnecessary trips out of the house. Your pharmacy may also mail prescriptions or offer drive-through pick up.
- Many health insurers, including Medi-Cal, have made it easier to access prescription refills during this time. Ask your health plan or provider for details.
Home Health Visits
- Home health care, private duty nursing, and respite care may be an essential part of your family’s routine. While you might not be able to postpone visits for your child or conduct them over phone or video, try to minimize the number of people who come into your home.
- Check with the company or organization that provides home health services about what precautions they are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and how you can help keep your child and those around them safe and healthy.
- Consider asking visitors and family members to wear respiratory protection such as a mask or cloth face cover and keep 6 feet of distance when possible.
- Keep up routine good hygiene habits that your family likely already practices: wiping down high-touch surfaces and washing hands frequently. Visitors in your home should wash their hands upon arrival and before leaving.
- If you have concerns about getting the care you need, reach out to your child’s health care provider, local Family Resource Center, or local Public Health Department for help.
- Many school districts are providing to-go meals for kids while schools are closed.
- The CA Department of Education has created a mobile app, CA Meals for Kids, to help students and families find meals during COVID-19-related school closures. The link to access the app is in the resource table below.
- Many grocery stores have created specific hours during the day for those at greater risk.
- Consider ways of getting food brought to your house through social or commercial networks.
- If your child relies on a special diet and/or formula, call ahead to your pharmacy or grocery store to ask when deliveries are expected.
Communication and Mental Health
- As a caregiver or family member, consider what your contingency plan will be if you get sick. Your local Family Resource Center, local Public Health Department, or care coordinator/social worker (if you have been assigned one) can provide support and suggestions to help.
- Communicate with your child about what is happening. Open discussion can help reduce fear.
- Last but not least, prioritize your mental health. Reach out to your health care provider if you need help managing stress and anxiety. Two 24/7 helplines are provided in the resource table.
Key resources are offered in the table below.
|Family Resource Centers (FRC)
Parent to parent support, outreach, information and referral services to families of children with disabilities.
- FRC Network of California
|Local Public Health Departments
The best source for local information about COVID-19 and community resources available during this time.
CA Department of Public Health
Regional centers provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities.
CA Department of Developmental Services
|Mental Health: Manage Stress and Anxiety|
- Disaster Distress Helpline
- 1 (800) 985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
- Available 24/7 in English, Spanish, and for Deaf/Hard of Hearing.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
- 1 (800) 273-8255
- 24/7, free and confidential support.
Resources for emotional support and well-being from the California COVID-19 Response
California Surgeon General’s Playbooks
- California Association of Food Banks
CA Department of Education
|Support for Job Loss |
- CA Employment Development Department
|Domestic Violence |
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Our advocates are available 24/7 at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages. All calls are free and confidential.
Find a domestic violence organization near you:
|Health Care Coverage|
CA Department of Managed Care Help Center
Medi-Cal Member Helpline
- (800) 300-1506
- TTY: (888) 889-4500
Thank you to our partners who provided input on the development of this document.