Adoption and foster programs face new challenges amidst COVID-19
47 ABC – A Delaware foster and adoption agency says it’s facing quite a few challenges during this pandemic. They say screenings are more difficult and families who were planning to be reunited are having to wait. They’re also predicting an increase in the need for their services in the near future.
“I think we may expect to see numbers in foster care increase after this is over,” says Laura Storck, the foster care statewide supervisor for Children & Families First. “We have schools that are out. We have daycares that are closed. We have kids that aren’t frequenting hospitals or doctors offices as much, not seeing counselors as often or in a different way.”
Children & Families First trains, assess, licenses and supervises families in all three counties. The agency says it isn’t letting this pandemic impact its ability to protect the health and well being of kids. “So we still follow all of the requirements of the state in terms of making contact with children but it’s happening using platforms like zoom or Skype or Doxy things like that,” says Storck.
But officials say they’re facing new setbacks when it comes to screening families. “How do we get people background checked? How do we make sure people get into see their doctors so that we can have a physical exam? So some of those things are in the process of being worked out. It’s been pretty challenging,” says Storck.
The organization is using technology as best as it can but things like time spent between birth families and kids doesn’t always feel the same in a virtual setting. “Especially for birth families who are working really hard to remedy some of the issues as to why their children came into foster care and now there is this delay to things because they can’t hold her children. They can’t comfort them like they normally would be able to,” says Storck.
On a positive note, the agency has also seen families willing to change their original foster or adoption plans. “OK I was originally thinking older school-age or toddlers but during this pandemic I might need to broaden my thought process a little bit around kids I can accept,” says Storck.
The agency says that some hearings are still able to happen through video conferencing or over the phone but many are being rescheduled. They also aren’t able to do in person ceremonies for adoptions but they can still do it through paperwork.
Children & Families First is hosting its April Foster Care & Adoption Information session via conference call at 6 pm on April 15. Dial in information is as follows: DIAL: 1-712-451-0011 // ACCESS#: 744567.
Meanwhile, a Maryland organization says 27 foster youth age out of the system every month and this pandemic may make that process even more challenging for them
Advocates for Children and Youth says those who age out of the system during this time may be at more of a risk for homelessness and unemployment because of the current economic situation. The state made a policy change to allow foster youth who are turning 21 during this pandemic to stay in the system until June. But some advocates say that’s still not enough and they’re pushing for a longer extension.
“We are asking for at least a year that youth are able to remain in care after their 21st birthday to ensure that the economy is ready for an influx of youth the enter and that they won’t be set up for failure,” says Rachel White, the child welfare policy director at Advocates For Children and Youth (ACY).
In Maryland, you can opt out of foster care at the age of 18 but if you stay in the system until the age of 21 you have certain education or employment requirements. So some advocates are also pushing for those requirements to be relaxed during times of a pandemic or natural disaster since many employers and schools are closed.
For information about how to report suspected child abuse or neglect: click here.