How COVID-19 has impacted the foster care system

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — We’re starting a new series that takes a look at how COVID-19 is impacting the family dynamic.

An agency explained how the past several months have been for foster families, along with the challenges the agency has been facing.

Like everyone else, foster care has been impacted by COVID-19. But that isn’t stopping agencies from trying to reunite kids with their families.

Jeremy Elliott is a foster care case manager and supervisor for Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, an agency that works to place children in foster homes and reunify them with their biological parents if possible.

He says since COVID-19 started, they’ve successfully moved to virtual meetings.

“The impact has been challenging… it threw us all into a big loop as far as what is it going to look like moving forward because a lot of our job is hands-on, eyes on, assessing safety,” Elliott said. “And it really, initially, put a pause on that.”

But they were also met with reluctant foster parents.

“They were a little reluctant at the time just because of the concerns and a lot of the unknowns as far as how the virus was spreading and how, you know, the changes in policy so a lot of foster parents were resistant and understandably so,” Elliott said. “But one of their biggest challenges and we ran into this a few different times is what do we do when a possible exposure happens? What do they do for their own family?”

Because of the challenge of finding foster parents to take in a child, they sometimes had to look outside the area.

“Sometimes we had to look outside the area and as much as we don’t want to do that because our goal is to reunify children with families, we don’t want to place too far out because that makes reunification efforts a lot more difficult,” Elliott said. “In those instances where we did have to place children in outside areas, we were able to pull them back in.”

He says some younger foster children were were the ones impacted the most by the virus.

“If we’ve got parents that are really involved and were having continuous visitation with their children, you know, to go from having seated visits at the office, having those kinds of parenting times to virtual like that, it did impact them a little bit,” Elliott said. “It was kind of mainly for the smaller children who didn’t understand, younger children, 5, 6, 7 years old. They have a harder time understanding and adjusting.”

Elliott says even though they’ve run into some bumps along the way, operations are almost back to normal with some restrictions.

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