Foster family recruitment, development and support: During the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

A Three-Part Conversation with Denise Goodman, PhD

In this three-part series, Denise Goodman, a national expert in foster family recruitment, development and support, shared with CHAMPS her perspective on how child welfare agencies can ensure children and youth in foster care continue to have stable, quality foster homes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part 3: Foster Family Support (See below for links to Parts 1 & 2)

Foster families, like many families, are in need of support during this time. What can agencies do to support them?

Foster families are facing many challenges: school, food, keeping kids entertained, and, of course, their day jobs. What if you are unfortunate enough to lose your job and are not getting paid? We need to reassure families that they will have extra support to ease the stress.

It starts with knowing that every foster family is a precious resource. Oklahoma incredibly values their foster parents. They immediately worked with their fiscal people and rushed to get hazard pay for foster families. States need to have a dedication to foster families and then get savvy on financing part.

There are other things we can do:
• Agencies and community partners can increase material supports like food, diapers, toilet paper – get the families whatever they need.
• It’s a good time to increase frequency of contact. We can check in and ask how they are doing, and how everyone in the family is doing. Text if they are too busy to talk. A caring, friendly person extending help can make all the difference in the world. [see Denise’s talking points for caseworkers here]
• We can connect them with another foster parent to talk with. Peer support is great.
• We can ensure families are getting up-to-date information, even if it’s available in other places. Don’t assume they have time to find things online.
• We can provide access to new resources. For example, families may want to be able to call a nurse at any time of day.
• We can leverage existing support networks. Oklahoma has spread the CARE portal to over 200+ churches in state. If such networks don’t exist, now is the time to start building them. They are so important.
• Lastly, we can call families and say, “Thank-you!” You can never thank them enough!

Respite is a critical support to many foster families, but social distancing can make accessing it very challenging. What ideas do you have for ensuring families get the respite they need?

We need to help foster parents think through how to get a break in these times. Respite is a break. I think it’s ok for parents to use electronics more now. You can also use it creatively, such as setting up a three-year-old with 10-year-old a family member or friend via video to read a book together.

Families can also consider expanding the circle of who is social distancing with them. If you have close friends or family members who are willing to come over, maybe they can come and play a game for hour or two with kids inside or outside. Swapping respite care with other foster parents is always an option.

Everything has moved online these days. What kind of technology support do families need?

I think many people are depending on the school systems to provide computers or iPad. But families may need more than that. Technology is a lifeline to the world. There are programs in different states that provide technology for kids. We need knowledgeable agencies and workers who can connect to those resources. Agencies should be thinking of ways to reach out to tech partners (i.e. Microsoft, Apple or local businesses) to donate technology for our families.

Like the other supports, the technology is needed now, but it is always needed. Building partnerships, strengthening support for your families, modernizing how you work – this will all pay off in the long run. We can come out of this crisis better than before!

See here for Part 1

See here for Part 2

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