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COVID causes foster care resources to dwindle at the expense of childrens' welfare

A profile shot of a young white boy's face.
Luke Pennystan
The pandemic has kept children out of the view of those most likely to report unsafe living conditions. As a result there was a steep decrease in the number of children taken into state custody.

The number of children going in and out of state care has fluctuated during the pandemic. But even when numbers decreased, it did not mean less children were in danger..

COVID's effect on the foster care system has been "overwhelmingly negative," according to Jennifer Townsend, vice president of children and programs for the nonprofit FosterAdopt Connect.

Early in the pandemic there was a "steep decline" in kids entering care, Townsend said.

It wasn't that kids were safer, she points out. It was their conditions were unknown as many were inside and out of view of community members who would likely report signs of neglect or abuse.

Homes willing to accept children also decreased due to the unknowns of the virus.

"We definitely saw a drop in the number of families who became licensed, and we also saw an increase in families who closed their license," said Townsend.

Because many services related to monitoring the progress of caregivers, including court hearings, stopped during the early months of COVID-19, reunifications and adoptions also decreased.

"We were not able to move forward with the hearings that would allow us to check in on reunification or to make a reunification," Townsend explained.

Kids aging out of foster care faced their own set of challenges as the housing crisis emerged.

According to Townsend, a lack of good credit history made it harder to find safe, stable housing.

Fostering, adopting and donating are some of the ways Townsends suggests people can support foster care families.

"They really are America's children," Townsend said. "They are in the care of the state, they are society's children and so I feel like we all have some responsibility to their care and safety."

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