Foster care during COVID-19: Added strain, stress and creative counseling

Posted on April 14, 2020

This story was originally produced by WBNS 10TV in Columbus.

Even the most fortunate among us are struggling in some way with the impact of the coronavirus and its ripple effects.

Now, imagine being a child of trauma who has been removed from his or her family of origin.

Ohio’s foster care system was already straining under the weight of the opioid crisis and unprecedented need.

The COVID-19 crisis has added layers of stress to the families and children involved.

“We are very much about helping kids and providing activities and giving parents breaks. We run after school programs, we take monthly trips with the kids, we do summer camps,” said Tedd Murphy, President of Journey Home Foster Care.

But those activities that are all temporarily on hold because of coronavirus.

That’s forced Murphy and his team to find new ways of supporting their families, including online activity sessions.

“Our activity crew goes live every day. We are providing activities for the kids, we come up with little challenges. Once a week, we send a care package to every one of our families. It has stuff for the adults, where we say thank you, here’s some chocolates, here’s some lotions for you. And at the same time we’re sending activities for the kids.”

The children served by Journey Home have already experienced the trauma of abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Their fragile support system are now upended by the forced isolation of COVID-19.

“Our goal is to help keep the stress level down in every home,” Murphy said.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is facing the same challenges on a national level.

“During this time of social isolation, the last thing these children need, is to be further isolated. They need those connects in their life, and yet we can’t do face-to-face visits with children. It’s not safe for workers, it’s not safe for the children and families,” said Rita Soronen, the foundation’s President and CEO.

That’s required case workers and counselors to get creative.

“One used to do regular lunches with a child who was on her caseload, so she’s not able to do that physically, so what she does is, she sits down and has her lunch, she connects via FaceTime or Facebook with her youth, and they have lunch together. Another one had a great example — she sent a box of books off to the youth she was serving. They’re both reading the same book, and so they’re connecting in a different creative way and talking about books.”

The impact is real.

Court hearings to place children with adoptive families are on hold in some places. Recruitment of new adoptive families is hampered by the upheaval of the virus, making it more important than ever to provide support and stability for kids in need.

There are 16,742 children in Ohio’s foster care system, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Experts say they expect a backlog of cases once social distancing restrictions are lifted.

They say if you’ve ever considered being a foster parent, now is a great time to begin that process.

No child should face the COVID-19 crisis or any other without the love and support of a permanent family. Give now to help find adoptive homes for children waiting in foster care.


Leave a Reply