A three-year-old in Texas was set to return to the care of his grandparent in March and celebrate his fourth birthday with his family, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the reunification and the family will instead be celebrating his birthday apart over a video chat.
These disruptions have become commonplace for families and children involved with the child welfare system. Due to necessary stay at home orders, courts have closed, cases are being delayed, in-person visits with families are being limited or suspended altogether, and social workers are having to adapt and shift to virtual platforms. Because of these rapidly changing protocols, vulnerable children are facing even greater instability.
What’s more, the impacts of COVID-19 are putting additional stress on families who are attempting to navigate school closures, uncertain childcare arrangements, job losses, social isolation, and significant barriers to critical support services. Without interventions to support families, these stresses contribute to increased risk of child abuse and neglect.
State and local leaders are working hard to continue vital child welfare prevention and intervention services to support families facing additional stress and disruption amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but these leaders are facing major challenges to meeting families’ needs.
On behalf of nearly 600 national, state, and local organizations, CDF sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging Congress to act immediately to equip the child welfare system with the tools it needs to handle this crisis. Strengthening the system to face these challenges requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the entire child welfare continuum.
The sign-on letter included recommendations to support families to keep children safe from child abuse and neglect; strengthen the child welfare system’s response and intervention services to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic; address the unique needs of older youth already in, or transitioning out of, the foster care system; and help grandparents and older caregivers raising children access critical necessities and supports that will keep them safe. It is crucial these targeted supports are provided to help families navigate this uncertain time, and vital to ensure children remain safe in their homes.
Find the full letter to Congressional leadership here.