As the end of the year approached and the other students returned home to spend Christmas with their families, Kim was left thinking, “But where do I go?” And eventually, things became too much.
“Mentally I broke down, and I just didn’t know who to call,” she says. “My social worker had come to see me the week I’d moved in and then I never heard from her again. No emails, no calls, no texts, didn’t visit. So when I say I didn’t have anyone to call, I literally had no-one.”
In desperation, Kim reached out to the pastoral care manager at her secondary school.
“I called her, crying, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know what I’m going to do – I don’t know anyone, I don’t know the services…’”
In all dependency cases, but especially those involving very young children, time is a parent’s enemy. That is not just because failure within a certain time to fix the problem that causes a dependency – whether it is substance use, inability to provide a safe home, domestic violence or whatever – can be grounds for terminating parental rights. It is because every day in foster care strengthens a child’s bond with their foster parents and weakens or prevents bonds with their biological parents. Imagine a substance‐exposed baby removed from their mother within days of birth. If the mother is able to become sober in six months, but has had only video visits in that time, returning the child to their mother will essentially be removing them from the only family they know and placing them with a stranger.
Some foster parents are, despite the health concerns, still facilitating in‐person visits with parents. And many family members continue to take in children and facilitate relationships with parents, even when the parents cannot stop using drugs. These foster parents and families are unsung heroes of the COVID‐19 pandemic because they ensure ongoing, necessary contact between children and biological parents.
The project consisted of bags for each child that included blankets, stuffed animals, clothes, hygiene items including a mask and sanitizer, and perhaps most important – a personalized letter of reassurance from Barstow.
“Many of these children [are] going through a very traumatic time,” she said. “Giving them a care package with a blanket, a book, a stuffed animal, and more… provides a little bit of comfort.”
“All Florida school districts are open for in-person instruction and access to these devices creates opportunities to enhance what they are already learning in-person in front of a great teacher and further close achievement gaps,” said state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “Foster care students have faced unique levels of disruption to their learning and home environments during Florida’s response and recovery, including spikes in the need to relocate and food insecurities, and consistent mobile access to educational supports can give them some certainty in this otherwise historically challenging period for foster care students. That is why we are proud to partner with First Lady DeSantis and DCF to guarantee that our children in foster care have access to services that will close their achievement gaps.”
Florida lawmakers have a bad habit of trying to solve social problems on the cheap. When it comes to the child welfare system, the results have been disastrous.
The state made changes to its child welfare system six years ago that were meant to protect children, but instead put some children into the care of abusers. A USA TODAY Network investigation found that nearly 200 children were sent to foster homes where abuse had been documented, while caseworkers ignored safety guidelines and skipped safety checks that would have helped prevent further abuse.
. . .
Inadequate state funding, overworked caseworkers, overcrowded foster homes and the privatization of foster care have all contributed to these kinds of problems. And the root cause of most children being removed from homes is one that Florida has continually neglected: a lack of access to drug treatment and mental health care for parents and other Floridians.
Not great news for kids. https://t.co/okjZRKQ9G2
— Naomi Schaefer Riley (@NaomiSRiley) October 28, 2020