Adoption and Foster Care During a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed just about everything this year, including the Foster Care and Adoption System. Tragically, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds and children are still needing to be separated from their birth families. Children’s Bureau is committed to preparing resource families to provide these children with loving and nurturing homes. Read on to learn the unique challenges facing children, birth parents, and foster families during the pandemic.
Children and Birth Parents
Many factors due to the pandemic, such as unemployment, poverty, declining mental health and substance abuse, place at-risk children in even greater danger. When the danger becomes too great, Child Protective Services will remove the children and place them in a safe but temporary home.
Children and teens in foster care are impacted by the pandemic just as children living with their birth families are with the elimination of gatherings and celebrations, and the new normal of virtual learning and safer-at-home orders. However, children in foster care have the added stress of not being able to see their birth family in person.
While each situation is handled on an individual basis, every effort is made to ensure the health and safety of foster parents and their children. This includes supporting visitation and reunification with their birth parents when possible. In-person family time includes safety measures such as outdoor meetings, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and other state and CDC recommendations. “If there are concerns about the health of a birth parent, child or foster parent, family time is virtual,” says Foster Care and Adoption Coordinator Cindy Strogel.
The pandemic has also placed a hold on the Dependency Courts who decide on reunification and permanency for children with either birth or adoptive families. For several months there was a placement standstill of children and teens in the foster care system, delaying permanent homes and a small sense of normalcy.
Foster parents, also referred to as resource parents, face many of the same issues birth parents face during the pandemic. Struggling to financially support their family due to job loss, cuts in salary, and working from home virtually, has plagued both birth and foster families.
However, much like children in foster care, resource parents have additional stress and duties. Many parents worry about meeting children’s developmental, therapeutic, medical, and educational needs during Safer at Home orders; all while supporting relationships between children and their birth families.
Foster parents are navigating what our new normal looks like; for many, this means acquiring new technological skills to accommodate the developmental and therapeutic needs of children. They are making every effort to plan activities and socializing opportunities virtually for children to keep them engaged in their community and provide emotional support. Children’s Bureau knows this is an especially challenging time and is here to help every step of the way, providing resources and guidance.
The safety of children is our top priority at Children’s Bureau; we strive to continually provide families with PPE and regular updates on health and safety guidelines. Every effort is made to assess the health of the child and family before they are joined together.
If there is possible exposure to COVID-19, children and foster parents are tested and quarantined as advised by the Los Angeles County Health Department. Families are advised to seek appropriate medical attention if there are any worries and report medical findings to the agency right away.
Children’s Bureau is committed to supporting families and children at all times. Social workers and supervisors maintain regular and consistent communication with foster families and children in their care via telephone and virtual platforms such as Zoom.
Overall, the adoption and foster process has experienced minimal change in lieu of the pandemic. Approval requirements remain in place, but procedural changes have occurred in accordance with California state directives, Health Department guidelines, and Children’s Bureau COVID-19 health and safety requirements. The goal remains to ensure the health and safety of families and staff as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in California.
Families interested in fostering or adopting can now participate in one of our virtual monthly information meetings or view the PowerPoint available online. An application form is also available on our website and can be emailed to our recruitment staff. Pre-approval training is virtual via Zoom and online courses are offered through Foster Parent College.
Once the online application and training is complete, the family assessment (home study) will take place. Keeping safety in mind, the home assessment will be a hybrid of virtual interviewing and in-person (no physical contact) meeting. Personal protective equipment is worn by the social worker during any in-person contact or home assessment.
Every family is assessed on an individual basis. The goal of our program is to evaluate their ability, resources and willingness to care for a child who has experienced the tragedy of abuse, neglect, trauma, separation and loss.
How You Can Help
Those interested and willing to open their hearts and homes to children in need are urged to apply with Children’s Bureau to become a resource parent. If not, please refer a friend or someone you know who could be a good fit.
Becoming an advocate for children through volunteering is another great way to help. Check out the Children’s Bureau website for opportunities to join the cause, get involved, learn about the need for safe and nurturing families for children.
Lastly, those looking to make a financial contribution can donate directly, or find other current giving opportunities, on our website.
“Children’s Bureau appreciates everything you do for vulnerable children,” says Strogel.
Samantha Edgerton joined Children’s Bureau as a Social Media and Marketing intern in October 2020. She graduated magna cum laude from California State University Dominguez Hills, with a Bachelor’s in Advertising and Public Relations, and is excited to turn her passion for helping people into a career.