To slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Oregon Department of Human Services has elected to temporarily suspend visits between foster children and their birth families with daily phone and computer calls taking the place of face-to-face contact.
Caseworkers, who are required to visit and check in on foster children once a month, are now only allowed to do so via video conference calls. Caseworker visits are seen as essential to monitoring the quality of foster homes, and how individual children are doing.
7,000 children are currently under Oregon’s care. In an already struggling system, COVID-19 will no doubt have an effect on foster children, their birth families, and their foster families. Oregon’s Department of Human Services reports that for now, the pandemic has not had an effect on families willing to take children in. However, personal contact is critical for child welfare work, and coronavirus measures are prohibiting this type of communication until further notice.
Though no effect on the number of providers has been detected yet, it’s likely that foster families are already experiencing economic issues due to the pandemic that could hinder their ability to care for foster children. With thousands of Oregonians already unemployed as a result of COVID-19, providers will take a hit, especially since they are not reimbursed enough to fully fund raising a child.
There is also the concern that reports of abuse and neglect will decline as a result of the pandemic. With schools closed until April 28, children will not be around teachers and other adults who often report on these issues.
By Cara Nixon