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Schools, Agencies Working To Keep At-Risk Youth Safe Amid Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Order

SACRAMENTO COUNTY (CBS13) — For many of us, staying at home all the time may be an inconvenience, but to be at home usually means you're safe. That's not the case for everyone.

For some kids, school serves as an escape from a harsh home reality.

Allison Terras, a school counselor with the Natomas Unified School District, says she has always felt the need to help.

"I just want to give that back to kids cause I wish I had that," Terras said.

She's been video-chatting with the kids she's used to seeing, and created a special website for families to book appointments with her.  Terras just wants her students to be happy, especially during this tough time.

"A lot of times a safe place for a student may not be their home," Terras said.

READ: Educators Getting Creative And Adapting To Distance Teaching During Coronavirus Outbreak

The Natomas USD has been developing multiple ways to stay connected while at a distance. A number of mental health resources for students and their families can be found on their website. The school district even developed a podcast to discuss these types of topics.

It's important for them to be checking in on at-risk kids, whether they're dealing with homelessness, anxiety/depression or just need someone to talk to. Though, some cases are more serious than others.

School counselors and psychologists, like Toni Minoletti at Elk Grove Unified, know what signs to look for. Sometimes kids don't show them easily, though, especially in a virtual world.

"We don't always know if there's abuse going on, Minoletti said. "Of course if there is, we're mandated reporters."

ALSO: Coronavirus Learning: Sac State Launches 'Online Academy' To Help With Distance Learning

What happens when bigger agencies need to get involved?

CBS13 asked Sacramento County, who's also operating virtually. But Child Protective Services, a division of the Department of Child and Family Services, will still make house calls if a virtual visit isn't enough. It's all a case-by-case basis. In order to visit these homes, social workers and staff must comply with COVID-19 precautions.

CPS has a special hotline dedicated to answering calls regarding child abuse. Anyone who needs to report a case can still call 916-875-5437 (875-KIDS).

School districts also want families and students to know reporting this behavior can be simple, and they're ready to help.

"We are answering those phones and those referrals," Carol Swanson, with Natomas Unified said. "If you reach out, we will grab your hand. We're here."

Even if they don't hear from families, many staff members are still paying attention in the virtual classroom sessions; where a student's silence can sometimes speak the loudest.

"We're really reaching out to those we haven't been hearing a lot from," Terras said.

Children or families in crisis can also turn to a number of non-profits for assistance, like the Sacramento Children's Home. The organization runs two crisis nurseries for those who need the support. People can also call 'The Source' hotline at 916-SUPPORT at any time of the day or week.

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