CDHS responds to foster parents' questions
April 3, 2020
Many foster and kinship parents have questions about how the coronavirus is impacting the foster care system and how the foster care system is responding. Mary Griffin, Program Administrator for Foster Care and Relative Guardianship Assistance at the Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Child Welfare has answered several questions from current foster parents.
QUESTION: Will counties remove children and youth if a foster parent loses their job or if a foster parent contracts COVID-19?
ANSWER: When children or/youth are living in a foster home where they are thriving, safe, and their well-being is addressed, there is no desire to change the situation or to remove them because of income. It is not good for the kids to be uprooted and cause additional trauma to move due to financial reasons. It's not good for families to feel like they've done something wrong because of circumstances out of their control, and it isn't good for anyone to have to experience grief and loss that happens when kids move if there are no safety concerns. With the new normal, kids need the security of their foster families, a new routine, and the sense of knowing where they are going to be today, tomorrow, and the next day until the health crisis is over and a more normal life can resume.
QUESTION: What is the current status of new child welfare investigations?
ANSWER: Calls to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline System are down most likely because many mandatory reporters are not seeing kids. We don't know if this trend will continue.
County caseworkers continue to assess the safety and well-being of children and youth about whom we receive concerns about through the hotline. These assessments are required by statute, and COVID-19 has not impacted this process nor the time in which caseworkers are required to respond.
In nearly 70% of child welfare cases, counties can provide services and kids can remain safely at home with their parents. Some of these services may include assistance applying for benefits or classes to help parents manage stress.
QUESTION: Will foster parents be asked to take on more placements?
ANSWER: There isn't a current trend of more children and youth entering care than usual. Recruitment of foster parents is continuing and foster parent training is available virtually for certification (and recertification) so new and current foster parents will be able to complete training.
If a foster parent is not comfortable taking additional placements, there is always the right to decline a placement. That hasn't changed. Foster families need to do what is best for their families. All foster parents have individualized foster home admission requirements about the children and youth who they are comfortable caring for, as well as the number in care. If there is a concern about introducing COVID-19 into the home, of course, the foster parent can decline a placement.
QUESTION: How are caseworkers of children and youth in care adapting during this time?
ANSWER: For caseworkers of the children and youth in care, written guidance from CDHS will be coming out shortly. With the COVID-19 health crisis, the Department has been working with stakeholders to strategize how to best adapt to the unique circumstances and also be able to assure the safety and well-being of children/youth in care, keep everyone safe, and address federal and state requirements. This has taken time and they have been using a thoughtful approach to avoid gaps.
Recommendations were also made to CDHS leadership regarding monthly support visits in the foster homes, interviews for home studies, and specific certification/recertification requirements. These recommendations are being reviewed and there are a few steps for leadership to complete. We anticipate that we will have guidance to share in the near future.
QUESTION: What are my options if my CCAP child care closes and I still have to work?
ANSWER: This has been a concern for many families who are still working outside of the home. There has been some work to support child care centers to remain open. Parents should go to the Office of Early Childhood for information. Parents should also ask the child care provider for suggestions, look for alternative child care programs centers and ask the county department about options. It is important to ask the questions so that people know you have a need. There has also been additional work towards assuring child care for those listed as essential. The list is fairly extensive. Please look for resources online and tap into your foster parent network. We know that this is really hard right now.
QUESTION: I know caseworkers are especially busy now, how can I get more information?
ANSWER: I'm sure caseworkers would love to hear from foster parents. We would encourage foster parents to reach out to the caseworkers, whether it is the foster care resource worker or the caseworkers for the child or youth for whom you are caring. Since the new normal is to work remotely, caseworkers may not be reaching out to their families out of consideration knowing that the kids are there all day now. They may not want to be a bother to foster parents and are considering the addition of more focused time for the foster parent (and less downtime).
Remember that caseworkers still need to see the kids and resource support workers still need to cover their monthly support visits. However, once guidance comes out, there may be some opportunities for flexibility. It is so important to remain connected to those people involved with parents and the kids in their care.
Finally, everyone at the Division of Child Welfare wants to thank all foster parents for making big and unimaginable changes in order to adjust to new routines, responsibilities, and having the entire families 24/7 without breaks. We can't begin to appreciate the huge efforts families have made and the magnitude of that effort to continue to provide normalcy for the children and youth in your care.
Foster parents who have more questions for the Division of Child Welfare should contact Adrienne Cooper at email@example.com