Everything from reunification to social worker visits to permanent placements got derailed.

By Nefertiti Austin

All foster children are forced to cope with transitional situations and not knowing what the future may hold. The Covid-19 pandemic took these uncertainties to new extremes. Foster children whose plans for reunification or permanency were derailed by the pandemic. Immediate safety protocols went into effect to stop the spread of the disease. Covid mandates delayed reunifications, movement between foster homes, and adoption finalizations; the whole system came to a screeching halt. Child dependency courts went dark last March, exacerbating the logjam of existing cases until they reopened virtually at various times in different states. Foster children were stuck in temporary placements within individual homes or in overcrowded group homes, with pending placements on hold.

It often takes two years for the reunification process to conclude. During this window, biological parents are given chances to resolve the issues that led to their child’s detainment. If the issue was homelessness, parents have to find housing. If the parents had addiction issues, they have to get clean and stable. Along the way the parents’ progress is reviewed. If all stipulations are met, the child is reunified with them; if not, the case is extended.

The pandemic completely derailed this process. Not only was the foster care system interrupted, but birth parents hoping to start or complete reunification plans experienced major setbacks. As housing instability and job insecurity deepen, families are increasingly unable to access the services they need to reunite with their children, because rehabilitative and support services have closed or waiting lists have lengthened.

To read more about Nefertiti Austin's experience and those of many like her:

Covid's Effect