Resource parents can support families and maintain connections — even during a pandemic
This spring, most of us have been thrown for a loop by COVID-19 and the steps our society is taking to reduce its impact. Here in North Carolina, public schools across the state are closed for in-person instruction for the rest of this school year. We have been asked to stay at home and to keep our distance from one another to slow the spread of this disease. Daily life has changed for everyone.
Like others, North Carolina’s foster and adoptive parents and kinship caregivers are experiencing disruptions and anxiety. Yet many are also concerned about the impact this crisis is having on the children and families they work with.
Even under ordinary conditions, it can be challenging to support families and children involved with child welfare. When everyone is on edge and very necessary “social distancing” measures cause court hearings to be postponed or prevent face-to-face family visits, the challenges only increase.
Stay Up-to-Date with NCDHHS
NC’s Response to COVID-19. Provides current, reliable information.
COVID-19: Individuals and Families. Offers tips for household preparedness and what to do if you feel sick.
Following are some suggestions of ways resource families can support children and their parents during these uncertain times.
Send a message of hope. The pandemic may be impacting families’ cases, visits, and emotional well-being. Acknowledge this, but encourage them not to lose hope. In your own words and your own way, consistently send the message “You will be able to reunite your family. Please know that I will continue to do everything I can to support you and help you get through this.”
Stay informed to stay healthy. You’ll be in the best position to continue supporting families if you stay healthy and protect the health of others. To do this, stay informed and follow the latest guidance about Coronavirus from credible sources. We recommend starting with those found in the box above and on FosteringNC.org’s COVID-19 page.
While staying informed is important, so is moderation. Please “minimize exposure to media outlets or social media that might promote fear or panic. Be particularly aware of (and limit) how much media coverage or social media time your children are exposed to about the outbreak” (NCTSN, 2020).
Reassure and educate children and youth. You can support young people in your care by providing them with factual, age-appropriate information. “Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety” (NASP, 2020).
Please click here for a concise and helpful guide from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network that explains how this outbreak might affect your family—both physically and emotionally—and what you can do to help your family cope.
Support and encourage family time. Across the country, many in-person visits between parents and their children are being cancelled because of the pandemic. Although circumstances in some cases mean visits must be temporarily halted, the U.S. Children’s Bureau issued a letter on March 27, 2020 discouraging foster care agencies from cancelling all visits and reminding them that “family time is important for child and parent well-being [and] . . . . especially important during times of crisis.”
If face-to-face visits are on hold for the families and children you work with, there are still a host of strategies that can be used to sustain the parent-child bond. See the sidebar at right for some examples to share with parents. Encourage parents and children to use more than one of these strategies.
Video chats may be of particular interest. There are quite a few free apps available (click here for a list) that parents and children can use to visit and stay in touch. Many of these platforms make it easy to set up three-way chats. This makes it easy to bring siblings placed in different foster homes together with their parents, and (if necessary) for visits to be supervised.
Click here for a handout with tips on making video chats interactive and engaging—even for young children.
Model self-care. A valuable way to support children, parents, and everyone else in your life by practicing and modeling self-care. Pandemics are stressful. Successfully managing your worries can help those around you manage theirs. “Taking Care of Yourself in Isolation,” by University of Minnesota Extension has great ideas for doing this.
Finally, if you are in isolation and need ideas for keeping the kids happy and occupied, you can find some great suggestions here: https://bit.ly/2R3hMnx.