The COVID-19 pandemic has applied greater pressure to numerous facets of daily life in America. It should come as no surprise that the same is true for children in need of foster care. In Washington State, recent hardships have led to a 23 percent increase in hotel room and foster office stays for children faced with a drought of placement options, and 30% of foster homes in the King County region have stopped accepting placements since the pandemic began due to concerns about the virus.
Fostering produces tangible benefits and meaningful rewards for children, parents, and their families, but it’s not without real-world obstacles.
Acknowledging The Challenges
Foster parents have valid concerns about opening their homes for care during uncertain times.
Nathan LaChine is a foster parent, and the founder of Evergreen Caregiver Support, with professional experience in foster parent advocacy, training, and recruitment. “The biggest issue has been isolation and being disconnected from community and community resources,” Nathan says. “Everything is now remote.”
A heightened sense of caution also includes:
- Lack of support
- Loss of connection
- Concerns about spreading the virus
COVID-19 is impacting the foster care system as well. Although the Y Social Impact Center recorded an increase in inquiries and licensing for foster families in 2019 and 2020, the overall capacity of foster families has been more unpredictable and challenging in the face of changing guidance impacted by the pandemic.
Nathan attributes part of the downturn to the everyday pressures that come with COVID-19 protective measures — such as remote work and remote schooling. “Most foster care parents have full-time jobs and find it hard to juggle work, fostering, and educating kids at home,” he says.
Though the demands are significant, there is good news for parents of goodwill (and plenty of statewide resources ready to help).
Solutions For Difficult Times
While it may feel daunting to embark on fostering in-need children at a time like this, resources and support are available to bolster the efforts of willing foster parents.
Assistance varies by geographic area, so be sure to ask your school district and foster agency about options and availability.
Following are a list of examples of supports that have been provided to foster children and families.
Remote Schooling Support:
- In-person schooling and tutoring for students with Individualized Education Plans
- Access to laptops and other school-related needs (varies by agency). Contact your agency for more information, or visit our website to connect with one of our partner foster care agencies.
- The Washington K–12 Internet Access Program provides in-need students with home internet access at no cost to families
Food And Clothing Support:
- School-provided bagged meals
- Clothing closets to connect children with right-sized attire (via community organizations and nonprofits like The Wishing Well Foundation and others across the state).
- More frequent check-ins with foster parents
- Virtual foster community events and hang out nights hosted by agencies (or via organizations like Compelled to Care)
- Help with homework and maintaining focus during learning (via case aid)
Washington State is also responding to the challenges of fostering in a pandemic by migrating paperwork and key processes online — from digital signatures to virtual home visits.
Creating Meaning When It Matters Most
Foster parents can continue to provide a safe and nurturing environment, even in unprecedented times, thanks to their determination and the support of resources and partners.
Now is a great time to take a step forward in the licensing process, even if questions remain. The process can take time, and interested families are welcome to reevaluate their comfort level closer to a placement date.
With the stakes this high and needs more apparent than ever, investing in a foster child’s life will prove to be exponentially rewarding for adults and children alike.
Thinking about becoming a foster parent? Click here to access our FREE on-demand 8-part webinar course to learn more about the importance of foster parents, the process of getting licensed, and the everyday experience of caring for a foster child.