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Job listing sparks fears that children with COVID-19 symptoms will be taken from their home and placed in ‘Emergency Quarantine Centers’

A government job listing in Washington State prompted fears and rumors that children who have tested positive for coronavirus would be taken from their homes and put into a quarantine facility.

Earlier this month, the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families posted an internal position titled “Social Service Specialist 3 COVID-19 Care,” with the following job description:

“DCYF is seeking current DCYF employees in King, Snohomish, and Benton counties to volunteer to supervise and support children and youth in Emergency Quarantine Centers. While this is a voluntary effort, you will be compensated four ranges (approximately 20%) above you[r]current base salary while performing these duties, and return to your normal position and salary once concluded.”

The job posting included three different locations where the positions would report, including a church and a religious camp. The listing was picked up by job sites including Glassdoor, and has circulated on social media. On Twitter, a doctor who is part of the anti-vaxxer movement shared the listing with a message that DCYF “is hiring to snatch kids out of their homes if someone in the home tests positive for #Coronavirus.”

In response to the apparent backlash, the Washington DCYF posted a media statement on its website, clarifying that the job listing was in reference to facilities not yet in operation that would serve “State-dependent children and youth in out-of-home care who due to being COVID positive or COVID exposed do not currently have a foster home available.” The statement also clarified that the sites listed in the job posting were included “prematurely” and “had not signed off on this job listing.”

Below is the statement in full:

“In light of some concerns from the public regarding two recent job postings by the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), the agency would like to clarify the intent of these job listings and address misinformation spreading as a result of the job description.

The job postings targeted current staff interested in Social Service Specialist 3 and Social Service Specialist 5 positions. The post prematurely included sites of potential locations in the community where we could house children in our legal care and authority who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 in the event that a placement home was not available. The facilities listed are not affiliated with DCYF and had not signed off on this job listing.

The listings have since been taken down to avoid further confusion.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, DCYF began internal recruitment of social service specialists to care for foster children who are either COVID-19 positive or may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the event a placement home was not available.

To clarify, those facilities that ultimately open their doors to this effort would only house State-dependent children and youth in out-of-home care who due to being COVID positive or COVID exposed do not currently have a foster home available. These facilities are for this limited scope and not considered quarantine centers or intended for the general public.”

The Cedar Springs Camp, one of the locations listed in the job posting, shared a message on its Facebook page on Monday, acknowledging that the camp had incorrectly been listed as a COVID-19 quarantine facility.

“This was a suprise to us and is incorrect,” the post read.

As of Tuesday, the unmodified listing remains active on multiple job sites, including GovernmentJobs.com. In response to a request for further clarification, a Washington DCYF spokesperson noted that the original job posting had been removed from the agency’s website, and CrimeOnline confirmed that it no longer exists there.

The spokesperson, Nancy Gutierrez, reiterated that some of the details in the listing were posted prematurely and in error, and said that the description of the facilities as “Emergency Quarantine Centers” was not accurate. She also said the job is not considered a volunteer position, contrary to the language of the job posting.

“We were looking for locations in these communities where we could house foster [children] who tested positive and who do not have a placement,” Gutierrez said, adding that the locations were only “potential” sites and “should not have been included in the listing.”

Gutierrez also said that the initiative to provide separate housing for foster youth affected by COVID-19 originated within the agency in preparation for a possible need during the pandmemic, and was not the result of a federal or state directive. She said that there are no juveniles currently quarantined at any of three locations included in the job listing, but indicated that some juveniles in state facilities, including Behavior Rehabilitation Service facilities, may be in isolation within those structures.

Asked if foster children currently placed in homes could be subjected to removal if they are symptomatic or test positive for the coronavirus, Gutierrez said in a follow-up email that “our expectation is actually that a child that tests positive stay in their current placement and self-quarantine. So we would recommend that to foster parents or relative placements.”

Gutierrez also said that caseworkers are available to help facilitate testing for children in the foster system.

The three facilities listed in the job posting did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CrimeOnline will provide further updates when more information is available.

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[Feature image: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]