COVID-19 impacts foster and kinship care

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — In the best of times, it can be filled with trying time but with the coronavirus the challenges are even tougher.

A child welfare forum this week shed some light on issues facing foster and kinship care.

“The struggles are very real for many, many caregivers across the state,” says kinship caregiver Norma Hatfield.

Those struggles vary – emotional, financial, access to resources, the fear of the virus itself, especially for vulnerable caregivers.

“If something happens to those caregivers who’s gonna take care of those kids?” asks Hatfield.

“There were also grandparents saying they wanted to modify their wills just in case,” says Shannon Moody, a senior policy and advocacy director of Kentucky Youth Advocates.

The Kentucky Youth Advocates’ survey found kids need more emotional support and so do the caregivers.

“If you know kids who have experienced trauma sometimes fast change like that isn’t going to result in the best outcome,” says Moody.

Access to mental health has been a challenge with telehealth being the only option.

“They often times were saying it just didn’t feel the same or it wasn’t as effective,” says Moody.

Internet access also is a serious problem for some. That makes school even more difficult.

“A lot of them need help and assistance with internet and data expansion and that’s gonna be critical otherwise they don’t have a choice, they have to send those kids to school,” says Hatfield.

Hatfield has been taking care of her two granddaughters for the last six years. She chose to keep them home for school, for a number of reasons.

“I have some family members that are considered high risk and so definitely that’s a factor,” says Hatfield.

This time hasn’t been easy for her kids. Both usually participate in sports and lived a social life pre-pandemic.

“They still at times are frustrated because they can’t go to a sleepover or a birthday party,” says Hatfield.

And though this time’s not as rough for them, she’s had grandparents reach out saying they’re considering foster care or that they’ve had to file for bankruptcy

“Family infrastructures, we don’t want to lose those. We don’t want them at a breaking point,” says Hatfield. “I think we can do a lot more to take care of the children and families.”

KYA’s survey found this:

  • Difficulty with Non-Traditional Instruction, such as inadequate technology supports and access to the Internet
  • Mental and behavioral health challenges, such as inadequate access to services and lack of respite care
  • Barriers to basic needs, such as challenges with placement stability for older youth in foster care
  • Navigating complex systems, such as inconsistent guidance on visitation and case delays due to limited court hearings

To learn more about the survey’s findings, click here.

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