Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have responded to over 1,000 CareLine calls, distributed 2,500 clothing items, finalized 10 adoptions, continued to place kids with relatives, advocated for foster children in schools, and trained dozens of foster parents.
You won’t be surprised to learn that, over the past five months, we’ve seen our kids and families react to these unprecedented circumstances with resilience, grit, and grace. But what’s impressed and touched our staff even more is how our community selflessly stepped up for those that became more vulnerable as a result of the crisis. In the past few months, we’ve seen our volunteers, parents, donors, community partners, and advocates take on incredible burdens and perform extraordinary acts of kindness and compassion. Thank you for bringing your time, talent, and treasure to our mission.
March 16, 2020 was the Coalition’s staff first official day working from home. At the time, we couldn’t have dreamed of a stay-at-home order lasting months. Nor could we have imagined adoption hearings through a laptop screen, drive-by graduation celebrations, or virtual foster parent training. We had no idea how the circumstances would impact our staff, our community, and the children and families we serve. All we knew is that the pandemic made children in foster care more vulnerable than ever.
Children touched by the foster care system have already experienced significant disruption and loss. The social and economic effects of the pandemic added to their trauma. From postponed court hearings, cancelled family visitations, school disruptions, unemployment, and housing insecurity, our kids were left experiencing more of the uncertainty that sadly accompanies every child’s time in foster care.
The pandemic has emphasized a fact we’ve always known: family is a child’s most basic need. The Coalition has been able to rise to this moment and meet that need because of the incredible outpouring of support from you, our friends and family. So much has happened these last five months, but we wanted to take a moment to share a few highlights, not just because we’re proud of our amazing staff, but because we’re proud of our kids and families for surviving and even thriving through this difficult time.
Thank you for everything.
Over 1,000 CareLine Calls
During the pandemic the Coalition brought advocacy to a whole new level! As the stay-at-home orders started to take place, we instantly wondered what challenges our families would face. To find out in time to make a difference, we knew we’d have to be proactive. As a result, the Coalition CareLine was created to quickly help foster, adoptive, and guardianship families connect to services. Families accessed this resource through our website or by phone.
We emailed, called, and texted thousands of foster, adoptive, and guardianship families in the area. We estimated serving 600 families in need. To date the CareLine has provided in-depth support to over 1,000 families and counting. Our expert staff helped families access food, clothing, government benefits, mental health and behavioral services, children’s activities, and other needs.
A single parent of one 9-year-old adopted child and 3 children in foster care under 3 years of age contacted the Coalition CareLine for support. One of the younger children who has been in the home since birth has many complicated diagnoses that require a multitude of therapeutic appointments every week. Prior to the pandemic, the foster parent had several supportive resources to help her coordinate care and transportation to make sure everyone got to where they needed to be, on time, and no one was left behind. During this time, however, she has been without nearly all of her supports. She has had her work reduced to part-time and, while creative, she is having a difficult time finding and paying babysitters to watch the babies while she takes the older child with medical and behavioral issues to all his appointments.
The Coalition connected the foster parent to local resources and provided gift cards to help with immediate material needs. This support took some of the weight off of her shoulders as she navigated difficult challenges to help her children heal.
Over 2,500 clothing items to distributed to kids
Thanks to our donors’ generous clothing and monetary gifts we helped SO many foster/adoptive families in need of summer play clothes!
At the beginning of May, we realized that many of our families were in need of summer clothing for their children. As many parents struggled financially as a result of the pandemic, they couldn’t meet this need at the moment.
Our families were beyond grateful, and our kids loved having new clothes for the summer!
10 Adoptions Finalized During the Pandemic
During the pandemic our Extreme Recruitment® program has finalized 10 adoptions/guardianships! One of the biggest challenges faced by foster care professionals has been delayed adoption timeframes due to cancelled and postponed court hearings and generally slower communication. Adoption/guardianship day is the most important date for many of our children who have lingered in foster care for years and dream of being part of a forever family.
Sixteen year old Mateo, twelve year old Zoe, and five year old Lena came into care in 2015 when Lena was born exposed to heroin in utero. Years later, the siblings were still in foster care with no hope of returning home to their mother. What they needed was some creative thinking, a fierce advocate, and a little luck.
Angela, an Extreme Recruiter®, opened the case in 2018 to help find the siblings a forever family. Angela and her team were able to uncover several relatives that had lost touch with the children; some were even interested in providing placement. As Angela reconnected relatives with the children, she kept hearing the same thing; they wanted to be a part of the children’s lives but they wouldn’t be able to handle all three children on their own.
Angela made contact with an aunt, Sofia, who had placement of a fourth sibling, nineteen year old Camila. Sofia was interested in providing placement for the children, but as was the case with other relatives, she wasn’t sure she could do it alone. She contacted her sister and best friend, Mariana, who was elated at the thought of providing a permanent home for these children, but also worried she would need help. They wanted to work together to give their nephew and nieces a place to call home.
The team was reluctant to split the siblings between the aunts, but Angela knew this was the best way for the children to grow up with family and still have each other in their lives. Angela pushed the team tirelessly to move forward with Sofia and Mariana as adoptive parents for the children. In December 2018, Zoe and Lena moved in with Mariana while Mateo moved in with Sofia and Camila. As the aunts were always together, so were the kids.
The long awaited guardianship hearing was set for May 2020 but, due to COVID19, was postponed until July. To three kids who have spent five uncertain years- including Lena’s entire life – in the foster care system, a couple of months felt like a lifetime.
On July 9, 2020, Mateo, Lena, and Zoe finally found their forever family. The court even decided to let them all hold their hearing together and in-person as long as they practiced safe social distancing!
Continue placing kids with relatives
Social distancing has brought many challenges to our 30 Days to Family® program as it seeks to place kids with families quickly. Think about it! Our specialist aren’t able to complete in-person tasks, like home visits, that are essential to recommend safe, appropriate placements. However, our dedicated team overcame many of the hurdles and continue to find homes for our kids!
Shonetta, a 30 Days to Family® Specialist, received a referral for a baby who was born exposed to drugs in utero. The baby’s mother had several other children already placed with multiple relatives who were at their maximum capacity and unable to take one more child. The baby was placed in a foster home with strangers. Unfortunately, family member after family member was unable or unwilling to accept this baby into their home. But Shonetta did not give up! Through hard work and persistence, she was able to find a maternal fourth cousin who was willing to take in the baby even while expecting a baby of her own! While most of the world has paused, child abuse and neglect has not stopped for COVID-19, but neither has Shonetta or the Coalition’s 30 Days to Family Program.
Keep calm and advocate on!
School closures caused enormous turbulence and anxiety in children, parents… and our Educational Advocates! Our kids’ school environments completely changed due to the pandemic, and in response our Advocates gracefully adapted without losing sight of their goal to ensure that children have the educational services they need to be successful.
As classrooms were shut down, meetings were canceled, and parents were asked to homeschool their children, kids with special needs were left particularly vulnerable. Claire, Director of Educational Advocacy, received a call from a family she worked with prior to the COVID-19 crisis. They struggled to connect with their child’s school to reschedule an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting to allow their child to receive the services they needed to be successful. Claire pushed the school to remind them of their legal responsibility to the child and was able to schedule the IEP meeting. During that meeting they discussed the child’s services for the future, but also how their needs could be met during remote learning. This pandemic has revealed the precariousness of our community’s most vulnerable students. But thanks to Claire’s advocacy, there is one more child who will receive an effective education during the pandemic and beyond.
Parents still step up to foster
Although a lot has been cancelled due to the pandemic, kids in foster care still need homes. Many wonderful people continue to step up to become foster/adoptive parents, so our Dennis and Judy Jones Foster Care and Adoption Program team has been busy preparing parents to help kids heal. In May, it was uncertain how they were possibly going to provide this necessary training to parents but, of course, they found a way.
Within days, our staff learned new technology, fixed connectivity issues, and figured out creative ways to still deliver the curriculum effectively. They somehow needed to create comradery in a virtual room instead of a training room. We’re proud to say they succeeded in every way! Katie Corrigan, Director of the Family Development Program shared that they have been able to create a training atmosphere they never thought possible. “We use the breakout rooms often and it has been awesome to see parents return to the large group still giggling and talking with each other,” she said, “as if they were in the hall and we were letting them know break was over.”
The Foster Family Development Program has completed two virtual training cohorts, and are currently in week three of their latest cohort!
All thanks to YOU!
These highlights are just a small snapshot of the amazing work accomplished in the past few months. Today, we are halfway through 2020, and look back with amazement at our team’s hard work, creativity, and dedication through impossible circumstances. We admire the strength and huge hearts of foster, adoptive and guardianship parents to be in the frontlines everyday caring for kids We stand in awe of our extremely generous donor and volunteer community for contributing to our mission and continuing to show up for our kids especially during this uncertain time.
A lot has changed since March, yet we remain focused on supporting foster and adoptive families, and finding the best homes for our kids! Thank you for being part of the Coalition family and sharing this journey with us.