How has the Covid-19 Pandemic Changed Fostering

Covid-19 Pandemic Changed Fostering

Though it has not yet been fully examined, there is a general agreement among both foster care workers, youth in care, and families that the pandemic has seriously impacted the roles in this system. This impact is far-reaching but the right agency can help guide you and your family on your fostering journey. Read ahead to find out more about how the pandemic has changed fostering this year.

Social Worker Procedures

First, additional safety measures have been added to the jobs of all staff to ensure the health of families and youth in care. This means correctly using personal safety equipment, but also using technology in brand new ways like facilitating visits and conducting interviews for licensing. Meeting the needs of families at a distance is difficult. In a system where people work with children and families going through trauma, conducting yourself at “arms-length” adds emotional stress. A decrease in access to kids and caregivers also means that you feel less connected or knowledgeable about your families and their needs. When you are responsible for building reunification plans and creating bonds between children and caregivers, distance creates a barrier to success.

Court dates are slower than ever, making the foster care process even longer. This adds tension to the system. Even reunification takes longer while waiting for the court to get through backlogs of cases. This means that even when time requirements have been met, kids may remain in their situations longer than need be.

Parents/Caregivers

The pandemic has added stress to foster parents.  Parenting kids who have traumatic experiences is even more complicated. Trauma creates emotional and physical distress, behaviours that are difficult to navigate, and the need for community support. The lack of in-person resources, therapies and respite care have placed these roles, primarily in the hands of foster parents.  

In addition to this, lockdowns create an ever-changing routine of school, sports, recreational activities, that shift from in-person to online with very little notice. Parents are consistently having to re-organize their responsibilities and obligations on a sometimes week-by-week basis. This increases parental stress and decreases parental satisfaction.

Youth in Care

The group that may be most affected by the pandemic in all of this are the actual children and youth in care. As with foster care providers, the resources, and connections that youth characteristically have access to while in care, have been very limited. After already experiencing the loss of their home environment, they have also been restricted from their school communities in lockdown, their recreational teams, and activities, and in some cases, even their local playgrounds. Due to pandemic health concerns, family visits are restricted, causing kids to feel even more isolated.

When children enter care, they often require access to service professionals to assist with coping with the trauma they may have experienced.  If any difficulties are identified resulting from these experiences of trauma and loss, such as academic difficulties, social, emotional, or behaviour issues, or developmental deficits, then professionals are utilized to help children get back on track. During the pandemic, these services have been drastically limited, closed, or changed to online supports, altering the effectiveness and consistency.

Another tragically common element for older foster care youth is the loss of a feeling of independence. Older youth in care frequently have more freedom of choice in activities and for some, a coping mechanism is to leave the home (sometimes without permission) to get a bit of space.

Leaving the home during a pandemic (even for just a few hours) might result in a foster family’s reluctance to allow a child to re-enter the home, seriously limiting any sense of freedom.

Recruitment

The availability of foster homes was already limited before 2020. Unfortunately, turnover is a reality of the system as family situations change and people leave foster care when they experience changes in their health, work, or family responsibilities. A generally unknown fact about Foster Care Providers is that many are older families who choose to foster after they have raised biological kids. The increased infection risk for older adults has become a common reason for families to put their foster care homes on hold until the pandemic is over, due to health concerns. Even young families are not approaching agencies to become foster parents as the stress of parenting under pandemic is not a big magnet for recruitment.

The pandemic has also contributed to a decrease in placement availability as some foster families have decided to decline additional placements to reduce the traffic coming and going from their homes. Homes that could foster 2 and 3 children at a time are limiting their homes to 1 to reduce exposure.  

At Satori we have been dedicated since the beginning of the pandemic to maintain an amplified and improved level of contact with our foster families. We have enhanced our supports to include solutions to limited resources. Our Resource Workers continue to implement a team approach to ensure that youth feel supported and connected to their biological families, their communities, and their placement families. The pandemic has added a layer of trauma and complexity to the challenges that the foster care system faces, but at Satori we are dedicated to innovating and cultivating new tools to offer a higher quality of care despite covid-19.

If you are considering fostering, please reach out to us to find out how we are navigating the added challenges of the pandemic, and how you can play a role in supporting the children, youth and families, that require Foster Care services.