How Governors Can Help Secondary Covid-19 Victims: Vulnerable Children and Families

Enclosed: USA Today: Coronavirus Pandemic Could Become Child Abuse Pandemic, Experts Warn 

Challenge: 

Current concerns center around the health and economic impacts of the virus, but the next wave of concern will likely be your state’s child welfare system.

STAND OUT QUOTE: The virus largely affects adults, but the solution – the quarantine – hurts vulnerable children. 

For many kids, school is a safe place where they get meals and safe adult interaction.

Normal school closings like summer and holidays can result in an uptick in kids entering foster care. (In most states, abuse and neglect investigations increase in September because the abuse and neglect that was happening over summer break is discovered and reported.)

In our current environment, a prolonged and unexpected school closing is causing even more stress on families, and, along with economic uncertainty, creating an environment where abuse and neglect could increase.

Recent reports from local child welfare offices where the quarantines are most severe include a significant drop in abuse and neglect investigations. This doesn’t mean abuse and neglect isn’t happening. It means harmful behavior toward kids is largely invisible until the quarantine is lifted.

Solution: 

Just as Governors have led on the virus response itself, there are countless ways they can lead to support children, families and child welfare officials during this time.  Some ideas include:

LISTEN:

Host video conferences with the following. Ask them about their challenges, listen to their experiences. Look for common themes. Have the Governor on at least at the beginning to thank them for their efforts in incredibly difficult circumstances.

  • Child welfare officials:  Include as many workers who are on the front lines as possible.
  • Foster families:  Get a wide array of families with varying ages of children.
  • Aged Out Youth: For kids who aged out of foster care with no permanent family, college dorms – many of which are closed – are home.

LEARN:

  • Gather ideas from experts including non-profit leaders from each region on possible solutions.
  • Ask what the private sector is already doing to help. Many faith communities are active and engaged in efforts to end the foster care crisis.

LEAD:

  • Host a press conference with child welfare officials outlining the proactive measures that you and your administration are taking. Have child welfare officials, foster families, non-profit leaders, faith leaders and kids who have aged out attend.
  • Challenge the larger community to help. Some recent examples from states where we are active include:
    • Dropping off Clorox wipes and snacks to local Departments of Social Services because many offices are running low.. (Wipes are needed to clean cars between kids and their biological family. These visits have not been halted per federal guidance except for extenuating circumstances. They are also needed for incidences of removal of children from unsafe environments.
    • Grassroots social media requests for tablets so teenagers at home from school can keep up with their classwork like their peers.
    • Amazon Wishlists with crafts and snacks sent to local churches and distributed to foster families.
  • Establish a Working Group or Commission (DRAFT EO attached) to ensure vulnerable kids and families are supported through the coming months.