Caring for Multiple Children During the COVID-19 Crisis

By: Dorothy Daniels

I have been a foster parent for over 25 years, welcoming over 100 children into my home. Currently, I am a caregiver to six children in foster care. This pandemic has been extremely challenging and I have personally seen that despite the efforts of the multiple systems supporting children – schools, courts, and child welfare agencies – student learning stopped mid-March, communication has been disjointed and conflicting, and caregivers are overwhelmed.

Distance learning for my four school aged children has been a great challenge. When my children started distance learning in mid-March, we did not have enough computers, technology equipment or reliable internet, which affected their ability to successfully participate in online classes. Additionally, my children are not receiving much help from their teachers which often leaves me in the learning facilitator role. I have four kids who are distance learning and two infants who are substance exposed. That’s a lot.

On top of that, all four of my school aged children have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and are struggling with learning in a virtual environment. The lack of support services available to special education students during distance learning is a big concern. They are not receiving the support from a one-on-one academic aide they need and are struggling to work at the same pace as their peers. One of my children is screaming because he is unable to finish his schoolwork while the rest of his class is moving on. Children don’t have a break for a recess where they can release their frustration and high energy. All they have is a computer screen and a teacher who is not familiar with teaching virtually.

With the trauma of distance learning and unforeseen challenges of the pandemic, the county has re-opened cases for Wraparound services for two of my children who are diagnosed with conduct disorder. Unfortunately, virtual Wraparound services have not been very helpful for my children – they do not want to spend more time in front of a screen.

Navigating new guidelines for caseworker and family visitation under COVID-19 has also been a challenge for my family. Having multiple social workers, attorneys and court investigators involved often leads to inconsistent guidance. I have a social worker telling me they need to enter my home during visitation, however, another social worker is telling me they cannot enter my home due to public health guidelines. One social worker allows socially distant visitation and another social worker will only permit virtual visitation.

Waiting for guidance from the child welfare system during this time can be frustrating. Caregivers don’t get to wait for the bureaucracy – we don’t get to say to the kids, “I’ll get back to you when I know more.” We have to turn on our computer every single day and pray it’s better than the one before.

We need clear and consistent policies in place to support children and caregivers during this difficult time. We cannot continue to put our children’s lives on hold.