10 More Ways the Coronavirus Affects Foster Care: Government Edition
Background: You may have seen America’s Kids Belong post on “7 Ways COVID-19 Crisis Impacts Foster Kids/Care (and They’re All Bad).”
That article focused on our number one priority: the kids. Because while the virus largely affects adults, the solution – the quarantine – will deeply hurt vulnerable kids and families.
Anytime kids are home for long stretches of time with emotionally-stressed and financially-strapped parents, investigations of abuse and neglect often rise once kids are back at a place – like school – where it is discovered and reported.
You may also wonder how the virus and this new normal is affecting the government sphere as a whole.
Consider this the Government Edition!
- The entire federal government is primarily overwhelmed with the public health and economic responses to the virus. Federal child welfare agencies have indicated that birth family visits should continue except for extenuating circumstances. But they’ve issued guidance to child welfare workers that they can do their monthly visits with kids remotely through telephone or video conferencing when available.
- Governor’s offices are also intensely focused on the health and economic implications. They are leaning on their own child welfare officials to make decisions about vulnerable children. Our hope is that governors will quickly realize that children in and on the “bubble” of foster care should also be considered a high priority.
- Child welfare offices are absolutely slammed. They are focused on keeping their workers safe while also navigating the new normal. We are pleased to learn that many offices remain dedicated to birth family visits when possible and thoroughly investigating instances of abuse and neglect.
- Front line social workers are still the first responders to the human condition. They are keeping a discerning eye as they enter into a home, making sure a child is safe and thriving. At this time, workers are attempting to find solutions, most of which require risk to the worker’s health in order to ensure the health of the children they are serving.
- Logistically, in all levels of government, in addition to the tele-working and child care challenges that many Americans are facing, the challenges we’ve heard include:
- Staying in touch with the kiddos on their caseloads when internet capability or face-to-face software isn’t available.
- Running low on their own personal protective equipment like masks and gloves. Clorox wipes and hand sanitizers for after family visits or at group homes because there are none in stores. Many officials have to wait on state procurement and contracting procedures to purchase anything which means they could run out
- Foster, adoptive and kinship families, along with front line child welfare workers, are the invisible heroes of the child welfare system, especially right now. All day long with few breaks, they are caring for kids with trauma backgrounds who thrive on structure. Any wrap-around support in the form of meals, lawn care, or other kinds of support has likely halted. Therapy appointments are being canceled, getting medications is suddenly more complicated, and, in general, a hard job just got a lot harder.
- Private providers and group homes serve as contractors for state and local governments to perform a wide variety of services to kids and families. They recruit foster parents, support kids in care, and provide a safe place for kids who have a higher degree of needs. Kids in group homes are especially hard hit by the virus. Visitation by their families is being halted for safety concerns which can create deep disappointment for children in their care.
- Aged out youth are finally at the point of establishing their adult identity. But instead of thriving in this new independence, they are being asked to stay home and social distance. Many are without a job due to their place of work shutting down. The top percentage of aged out youth who make it to college have found themselves largely homeless because dorms are closed.
- Nonprofits are extremely valuable partners to child welfare systems in every state. Their strategic plans for the year are being tossed out and re-written with the new demands taking center stage. They are innovating, creating, and adapting, and in order to do the hard work on the ground, they need to continue to be funded. At this time, fundraising events are being cancelled and donations are slowing down, but the workload for the organizations has significantly increased.
10. With many court systems closing across the country, legal proceedings are slowing down to a crawl. While it seems like emergency orders are being issued in removal cases, other non-urgent proceedings like reunifications and adoptions could be significantly delayed. Many court appointed special advocates, who are a key lifeline to kids from hard places, are being told not to do any home visits.
What can you do?
- Sign up to foster. Many agencies have moved their training online! Here are a few resources on Preparing to Foster.
- Gift a “Crisis Card” to America’s Kids Belong DreamMakers program serving aged youth.
- Make a “Foster Care Survival Kit” for a foster or adoptive family you know with games, toys, snacks and books and drop it off at a safe distance.
- Contribute a tablet to kid in care so she can stay in touch with her birth parents, workers and teachers.
- Donate to your favorite foster care nonprofit, so they can focus on serving children, families, and child welfare workers – not on the funding.