Local opinion: COVID-19 upheaval is magnified for foster families
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Local opinion: COVID-19 upheaval is magnified for foster families

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer: 

With the onset of COVID-19 a lot has changed for all of us. Nothing has been predictable and things seem to change daily.

Schools have closed, a job may have been lost and, for many, money is tight. Everyone is on edge and stress is at an all-time high.

Are you trying to work and also home-school your children? It is new territory for most of us.

Imagine how magnified the situation is for the nearly 4,000 foster families in Arizona!

In Pima County alone, we have close to 700 foster families caring for children who have been removed from homes.

There are over 14,000 kids in Arizona who are in out-of-home care.

So many foster families rely on the stability and resources their schools provide: class instruction, counseling services, food and the importance of friendships with classmates. And foster children are trying to establish new bonds with their foster family while navigating the difficult reality of being in the Department of Child Safety system.

With the stay-at-home orders, foster families have had an enormous amount of responsibility added to their lives. But they are demonstrating resilience and determination!

These people are definitely some of the unsung heroes in our community.

Foster families are encouraged to reach out to their family, friends and neighbors who are willing to help out with necessities, like going to the store or just to lend a listening ear.

Many foster kids are part of visitation services with their biological families so that they can safely reunite. But, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, DCS has changed in-person visits between foster children and their biological family to only visiting virtually.

Now, biological families and their children are only able to see each other on a screen and not physically be with each other for their normal 2-to-4 hour weekly visit.

Those who supervise the visits and foster parents are trying to help by making these child and family visits longer.

Simple things like reading a book, making up a story together, or completing some homework assignments can give them that time together that has been taken away by COVID-19.

Foster parents are also encouraged to do more shared parenting with biological families at this time. Adults and children may feel a sense of loss being away from their family, friends and teachers.

Letting biological parents know that their child is safe during this time will help calm their nerves, and will definitely support more positive engagement with the foster family.

Some activities that promote shared parenting include:

  • Sharing stories about daily life – new routines they have established, and new ways of communicating
  • Keeping a log of developmental accomplishments for young kids, sending samples of school accomplishments, sharing photos, and phone calls, emails and video calls when possible between the parents and child helps to maintain that connection.

A little extra kindness goes a long way.

In the Disney movie “Lilo & Stitch” one of the famous lines is “Ohana — Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

Let’s help foster families. During this time of upheaval, we need to ensure they have all of the necessary resources to keep foster kids safe and healthy.

Sandy Walters is a program supervisor with the Casa de los Niños foster care program.

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