COVID19 will undoubtedly have long term effects on Wisconsin foster care. Coronavirus has forced foster parents to restructure their routines in order to maintain healthy, stable environments for foster kids in their care. Though the worst of the COVID19 illness seems to be largely sparing the younger population, many of the nation’s most vulnerable children are being affected in other frightening ways.
Virtual visits have replaced crucial in-person visits and bonding time with biological families. Younger children are struggling with Zoom visits and have difficulty understanding why they cannot hug mommy or have contact with their family. It is almost like they have been removed from their families all over again. Older kids are struggling as well. They are worried and that's okay. The stay-at-home order has removed them from friends, school, jobs, and extracurricular activities.
While frequent texting and phone calls are easing the hearts and minds of some kids and their families, others have struggled to strengthen relationships. With no end in sight for social distancing and no indication of when in-person visits will resume, biological families are increasingly frustrated and heartbroken with what feels like another set back towards reunifying with their children.
I tried my best to get the kids to sit still and talk to their mom but I ended up just following them around the house with the camera. The 7 year old showed off her bedroom and our dogs but the 2 year old really had no idea what was going on. I really felt bad for mom. She is missing important time with her kids.
While we have not yet seen an increase in referrals coming to us from Wisconsin county foster agencies, we cannot predict what the future holds for foster care across the state. What we do know is that calls to child-abuse hotlines have dropped considerably across the nation as schools remain closed and kids are outside the view of teachers and other professionals mandated to report suspected abuse.
For so many kids, school is their safe place. Early announcements have come from many districts across Wisconsin that school will not resume this school year. Preserving as much normalcy as possible in the home will be important and difficult. That is of great concern to child welfare specialists.
The longer we are social distancing and kids are out of school, it is going to put more and more stress on families. Many parents are struggling with job loss and pay decreases. Financial burdens and employment uncertainties add enormous stress to already taxed emotions and personal relationships. These are unprecedented times for at risk families. Only time will tell but foster agencies must be prepared with newly licensed foster homes to care for children if and when needs increase.
All children placed in treatment level foster care with Community Care Resources receive an individualized treatment plan and weekly in-home support visits. Treatment plans are designed with specific goals in mind to help a child heal from trauma. With COVID19 stay-at-home orders in place, Clinical Case Managers are unable to visit with foster parents and kids which means everyone is missing out on critical support services and foster parents are under pressure.
In addition to missing in-person weekly support visits with their Case Manager, kids are also missing mental health services and therapies. The majority of all mental health services provided by our sister company Community Care Programs have been halted.
The dedicated Clinical Case Managers at CCR are performing virtual visits with families and kids to keep on top of things during social distancing. Our staff remains available to all foster parents and children 24/7 without interruption.
Shortly after social distancing began, two of our staff members were featured on WKOW Madison discussing the need for more foster parents during COVID19 (we aren't sure they got the memo about distancing however, LOL) The message was clear back on March 26, and it remains the same today. WE NEED MORE FOSTER HOMES.
We cannot predict, nor can we assume what will happen in coming months. What we can do is be prepared. We can do the majority of the steps to get a foster care license now, during the shutdown. There are applications pieces to complete, background checks, online training hours, and many other steps. Don't let Coronavirus keep you away from becoming a foster parent.
The safety and stability that children need to have does not stop being a priority at Community Care Resources.
We are working hard and happy to speak with anyone interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent. 800-799-0450
For additional resources in Wisconsin, visit https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/resources