The following story was produced by FOX 13 in Salt Lake City.
The Atkins family knew their family wasn’t quite complete. Three years ago, Wendy and Ian Atkins began fostering children. Late last year, Wendy and Ian came across a 12-year-old girl named Kenzie on Utah’s Adoption Exchange.
“As we were browsing through adoption exchange, I actually came across her picture and just got that feeling, that gut instinct, that I’m supposed to get to know more about her,” Wendy said.
The couple met Kenzie a few months later at a matching event. “At the end of the event, Kenzie came up to me and she kind of tapped my shoulder and she said I choose you,” Wendy said. The feeling was mutual.
The process of fostering to adopt Kenzie began and soon Kenzie came for two weekend visits.
“Kenzie asked if she could stay another day and they allowed it. And then Tuesday was supposed to be my birthday so she was like, ‘well can I stay another day after that’ and they allowed that,” Wendy said.
Things were going great and everyone was bonding, including the couple’s other children. After the last visit, the family and Kenzie received some sad news: because of COVID-19 Kenzie would not be able to come over for in-person visits right now. The news was heartbreaking, the couple said.
“Every single day she’s asking, ‘Well, when do I get to come back? When am I moving in?’ Multiple times a day. And I will explain that nobody knows and she’s like, ‘but when am I moving in though?’,” Wendy said.
It’s a tough situation for so many children in the care of The Utah Department of Child and Family Services, as well as families, Sarah Welliver, the Public Information Officer for Utah DCFS said.
“Our biggest thing right now is safety. Not just safety of the child and the safety of the families, which is our mission and goal, but with COVID-19 and all the challenges that come with it, it’s continuing communication, it’s ensuring we are following CDC guidelines and the Governor’s Stay Safe, Stay home initiative,” she said.
These impacts are being felt across the country, Rita Soronen, President and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said.
“This can bring up triggers and feelings of further being isolated and abandoned and just treated not well,” she said.
The non-profit working to help provide resources and guidance, as well as asking governors across the country to commit to a moratorium on children aging out of the foster care system.
“We are jumping in and using technology to its best advantages,” she said.
The Atkins are focusing on what they can do right now which is to take advantage of technology. They are messaging and Facetiming with Kenzie. This has helped strengthen their bond, Wendy said.
“She has been a lot more open over texting and stuff than she would be in person,” she said.
Despite the efforts, the Atkins know how difficult this has been on Kenzie.
“She felt like she was getting something stable and then it was taken away from her again. Like every time, you know,” Wendy said.
Now, they wait for things to return to normal—just like the rest of us.