How COVID-19 Has Impacted Foster Care

Author: Kori Griffiths, TFC Coordinator

At the beginning of the pandemic, the world of foster care was greatly impacted. With children being required to stay home, the numbers of referrals for children needing out of home placement dropped by about 10-15%. This is not because child abuse and neglect went down, but because there were less people involved with children to be able to notice its effects. Think about how many interactions a child would have daily pre-pandemic. Interactions with the bus driver, school staff, other children, extended family, doctor’s appointments, and community activities were a regular occurrence. Exposure to various helpers in the community led to more CPS calls being made regarding concerns over the welfare of a child. When the pandemic hit, many children who used school as their safe place no longer had an outlet to turn to. For these children, they had less access to safe adults and helping professionals. For many children, they were stuck at home with their abusers. The pandemic has not been easy for anyone. Think about the stress that you or your family have experienced over the past year and then add parenting struggles, addiction, mental health, and/or domestic violence to that mix and think about the impact that can have on someone, especially a child. During the height of the pandemic, children who experience abuse and neglect were at risk more than ever. 

Thankfully, as vaccinations for COVID-19 have increased and become more accessible to the general public, the community has slowly started to open back up again. What does that mean for youth in foster care? Referrals for children needing out-of-home care have started to increase again. If you think about it, it makes sense. All of the youth who have been trapped inside over the past year have begun to step out into the community where they are finally being seen by others. School has gone back to in-person. Teachers are beginning to notice the prolonged effects of abuse and neglect on children who have been isolated at home over the past year. Children are starting to resume various community activities in-person: sports, doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments, etc. It’s gone from where children had minimal interactions with people outside their family and suffered behind closed doors, back to a CPS call being made by a concerned coach or doctor and potentially saving a child’s life. 

So while referrals went down during the pandemic and it may have seemed that there was not as much of a need for foster homes, that could not be further from the truth. There is a great need for foster homes willing to receive children with significant needs due to the suffering they have endured over the past year. We are in great need of additional foster homes with safe families ready to help give a child a safe place to go. If you have ever wondered about when would be the right time to foster, it’s now. 

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