Immediate challenges due to COVID-19 pandemic
- Children in foster care have already experienced trauma in their lives; the pandemic creates challenging new circumstances that can create added trauma and difficulty for these children.
- Many children in foster care now face new challenges in visiting with their birth families. Typically, this important family time is facilitated by foster families with help from the child’s case workers, but stay-at-home and social distancing protocols are posing big challenges. Many children are now unable to visit siblings and parents in person. Relying on virtual connections is challenging as not all children or the adults in their lives have access to a phone, a computer, or wifi. For infants, this is especially troubling.
- Like other school-age children, children in foster care are out of school and disconnected from teachers and other social supports. Not all children in foster care have access to computers and wi-fi needed to engage in online learning.
- Many children in foster care have special health care needs, including disproportionately higher rates of chronic illness and because they have experienced trauma, many of them have mental health care needs. Many children and youth – and their caregivers face barriers to accessing health and mental health services from home.
- Grandfamilies are raising more than 2.5 million children whose parents are in crisis or unable to be the primary caregiver. Some grandfamilies become licensed foster parents to the children, but the vast majority do not, and receive little to no support. They are older, placing them at significant risk of death or becoming too ill to care for the children if they are exposed to the virus. Many struggle to access basic food and supplies for the family because they are fearful of leaving the house due to the elevated risk of exposure to the virus.
- Stability is one of the most important things we can provide to help a child in foster care heal and thrive. Foster and kinship families are stepping up to the new challenges and working harder than ever to meet the added demands of caring for children who are home all day. Not all families have the computers, phones and IT they need to meet all the new online demands, particularly when there are multiple children needing to be online for learning or to connect to health and therapy appointments.
- Foster and kinship families need greater support in order to ensure stabilization of placements. Any loss of families poses the risk of agencies turning to group care for new placements .
- Increase funding to kinship navigator programs by $20 million to ensure these caregivers, many of whom are older, have access to information and resources including food, health and safety supplies, and other necessities. These services will help more relative caregivers remain safe and healthy and able to continue caregiving.
- Increase funding to Title IV-B, Part 2 the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF) by $1 billion to support and strengthen foster families during this time when they need enhanced support to continue their critical caregiving roles. PSSF funding is flexible and can also be allocated to other community-based organizations that are working to stabilize families during the national emergency.
- Federal and state policies should direct state and local agencies to develop targeted approaches to support youth in family-based settings and reduce/eliminate the use of congregate care and placement in emergency shelters to protect the health and safety of youth