How the coronavirus pandemic has affected foster children and their biological parents

  • Many biological parents can’t visit their fostered children in person
  • It’s put additional strain on foster parents trying to fill additional roles
  • Social distancing could enhance mental health issues for foster children

While most of the world has been forced to make sacrifices and adjustments during the coronavirus pandemic, foster children and their parents, in particular, are experiencing a dramatic change in their day-to-day lives. 

Biological parents have far less in-person access to their children, youths—often struggling with mental health hurdles—are finding themselves without a consistent support system, and foster parents are being forced to shoulder the extra load.

In some states, biological parents have been completely unable to visit their children. In an effort to stall the spread of COVID-19, some states and counties are pivoting from physical visitations to virtual ones. While this certainly accomplishes their aim to keep the virus better in check, the emotional fallout could be detrimental to the fostered youth. 

Many children in foster care have experienced trauma or adversity, and social distancing guidelines can trigger traumatic memories or symptoms, according to Healthy Children. Some states are in their fourth month of social distancing, and the toll this distancing is taking has become clear.

Some people have compensated for the loss of their typical social lives using technology. Resources like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime allow us to keep in touch with loved ones and friends. Children in foster homes—particularly those in group homes—often lack this luxury, however. Access to technology is not guaranteed, leaving some children without consistent access to their support groups, even digitally. 

This forces foster parents—in some cases the only in-person contact that children are getting—to fill additional roles. Normally, a foster kid might get support from their biological parents, teachers, coaches, and friends at school. Without access to these public spaces and people, however, their foster parents must be their entire support system. When caring for numerous children, this task can be all but impossible for foster parents. 

Meanwhile, biological parents hoping to regain guardianship of their children are scrambling. Missed deadlines and even meetings can mean losing a child permanently, but with the system so confused and already overstuffed, not everyone is managing well. To top it off, time spent apart from biological parents can cause trauma in children, which could take years to overcome.

But Tara Perry, the CEO of the National Court Special Advocates group, is optimistic for the future. 

“Usually what happens out of these crisis-type situations is you see humanity at its best,” Perry told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m hoping more foster homes will be available, that there will be more incentive.”

Sources: The Center for Public Integrity, Los Angeles Times, NCSL, HealthyChildren

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