TAGS: Becoming A Foster Parent
Written by Washington Foster Team
“With schools shuttered and mandated reporters like teachers, day care workers, coaches, and Scout leaders no longer able to monitor children’s well-being, it’s anyone’s guess how children are faring.” — Why surge in foster care placement will follow COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta Journal Constitution
When much of the country entered lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the routines of foster care came to a grinding halt.
Children whose safety relied on the oversight of others, like teachers and coaches, were suddenly isolated at home.
Parents struggling with addiction were plunged into the stress of not being able to work or provide for their families. And caseworkers tried to balance their own safety with that of their clients.
The pandemic’s restrictions put a pause on many of the mechanisms that allow children and families to get the help they need. When those restrictions are lifted, experts believe we’ll see a major spike in foster care referrals.
Why COVID-19 Will Result In A Spike Of Foster Care Needs
It’s no surprise that Washington State foster care referrals decreased after Governor Inslee issued the stay-at-home order.
According to Jill May, Executive Director at the Washington Association of Children & Families (WACF), “Washington has seen a 50% reduction in the number of calls reporting concern for children and families.”
Many of those calls often come from schools, which aren’t set to return until Fall 2020. But many believe we’ll see a rise in referrals long before that. An article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution outlined the biggest reasons to anticipate that increase much sooner.
- Courts — Legal proceedings that may have allowed children to return home or prevented children from entering foster care were put on pause.
- Family Visits — In-person family visits were prohibited, crippling momentum for reunification.
- Domestic Violence — Times of high stress, like many families endured because of COVID-19, typically correlates with increases in domestic violence and child abuse.
- Fearful Foster Parents — Many older foster parents at greater risk of complications due to COVID-19 were unable or unwilling to take in children for fear of getting infected.
Agencies are hard at work to find ways to overcome some of these challenges, like hosting virtual meetings between children and parents.
Yet, these are temporary fixes. What’s needed is a larger population of foster parents, ready and waiting to take on extra cases as soon as they’re able.
Foster Parents Can Rise To The Challenge In Washington State
“In challenging times you see people making extraordinary steps to help children and families.” — Jill May, Executive Director at WACF
There is always a need for more foster parents, but COVID-19 is expected to substantially increase that demand.
Fortunately, there is already momentum in the right direction. “Agencies have reported higher attendance at foster parent orientation meetings and more families inquiring to become foster parents,” says May.
In particular, Washington State needs more foster parents able to welcome older youth and sibling groups into their homes.
If you’re ready to join the ranks of other foster parents making incredible gestures of support, there are always opportunities to get started. For example, The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) is temporarily allowing alternative ways to assess new foster parents and make use of virtual tools.
“The good that may come from this pandemic is that we seem to be reaching and supporting potential foster families through technology in a way we haven’t in the past,” May says.
Get a head start on the process by learning more about how you can help in this free guide to becoming a foster parent in WA.