Foster Youth in Crisis
COVID-19 Update from Women United
Across California, the coronavirus pandemic has made foster youth situations worse. Children and youth in foster care have already survived a lifetime of change and uncertainty. For these children and teenagers, changes like what they are encountering right now during COVID-19 can trigger traumatic memories or symptoms.
What we have learned is that during this pandemic caring for children in foster care has become even more challenging both for their caregivers and child welfare professionals. Many of these youth have already experienced adversity and trauma in their past, leaving them more vulnerable to the changes that come with school closings, lack of daily contact with friends and mentors, and other forms of social distancing.
The risk for abuse is skyrocketing during this time with limited visits and interactions with their social workers.
Food insecurity, housing, health care, financial assistance, and access to technology are only a few of the top concerns facing foster youth across our state. With more youth in our foster care system than ever before, with placements being put on hold.
Courts in Limbo
The damage that the pandemic has brought to our society has been immense – freezing life for most of us and driving millions into the unemployment lines. But U.S. child welfare systems and the families they serve are facing a particularly new and less-acknowledged set of challenges during this time. Causing immediate ramifications for foster youth across the country.
The current pandemic has caused:
- The systematic slowdown of court cases including family reunification cases
- Delay in placements causing group home overcrowding
- Complications of the strict guidelines for parents with children in foster care
- Slow or complete halt of all in-home family and sibling visits
All of these conditions result in having more kids in the foster care system with resources drying up fast.
Other analysis includes that the pandemic saw at least 8,700 fewer reunifications/reunions and a 16% decrease compared to the year prior. Also adoption decreased 23% during the past year.
Risk factors that cause children to enter the child welfare system, including the loss of a parent have occurred at higher rates over the last year especially. It is estimated that 40,000 children have lost a parent to COVID.
Solutions Suggested by Foster Youth
To curb the effects of COVID-19 on foster youth and remedy the above-described outcomes local foster youth advocates have suggested the following – to address disparities with policy:
- Suspend aging out to allow foster youth to stay in care past the state-mandated emancipation date.
- Waive conditions such as employment and educational requirements for the continuation of child welfare services
- Extend resources including financial, housing, employment, education and other support and services to former foster youth.
Where will these resources come from and how can we get to the youth who need us the most?