Foster care systems in other countries have been challenged by this pandemic. Living in the UK it can be easy to forget this. But many of the effects have been similar just as they have been as unfortunate. Across the ‘pond’ in the US, for example, the ravages of Covid 19 have affected that most vulnerable group – children. And just as here, the main problem has been ‘at risk’ children becoming ‘invisible’ to those who in normal times can keep a watchful eye. School closures combined with the suspension of basic services and support became the norm for months. The US saw its foster care system bulldozed by a virus- resulting in court closures and delays.
Whilst states like Chicago experienced a thirty-three per cent rise in the numbers of children entering foster care, other states such as Florida and Kansas noticed significant reductions in reports of child abuse. This is alarming because as Moises Baron, CEO of the San Diego Centre for Children said:
“It’s not that it is happening less, it’s just that there are fewer mandated reporters interacting with the youth.”
Other voices have added their concern: Voices for Children is a nonprofit organisation that works to support foster children. Its chief programme officer Stephen Moore, says that since last July in San Diego, there has been around a ten per cent reduction in numbers coming into foster care. Many experts believe that figure can only be interpreted as underreporting of abuse in the home. Data analysis provided by the Associated Press discovered 200,000 fewer child abuse and neglect were reported during Covid. This represents a decrease of 18 per cent compared to the previous year.
As schools return in the US, just as here, the probability is there will be a significant rise in teachers and other professionals reporting suspected maltreatment of children. And the main reasons families have been under such pressure during the pandemic are also similar. Stephen Moore from Voices for Children says:
“The concern is that with all the stress, job loss and pressure families are under right now, unrecorded child maltreatment may be occurring. Financial insecurity in families has been shown to be associated with abuse in prior work.”
Again, just as in the UK, significant numbers of foster children in the US require therapy. During Covid, their access to services has been sharply reduced. Mental health care, vital for foster children and young people, has often been restricted to phone calls or meetings over Zoom.
There has been a similar story in Australia where concerns of a pandemic of domestic violence facilitated by Covid 19 lockdowns appear justified. Research conducted at the Queensland University of Technology Centre for Justice revealed a surge in demand for services from domestic family violence agencies. Over 40 per cent of agencies reported a significant growth in controlling and coercive behaviour. Professor Carrington from the university stated:
“COVID gave perpetrators who are already attracted to coercive controlling behaviours another weapon.” Perpetrators of domestic violence were using Covid 19 as a means of control enabling them to further isolate women – as well as children.”
We know that this will not be the last pandemic. It is the first that has been truly global in terms of its speed and reach. Populations have to accept the harsh exigency of a pandemic but they have a right to expect, after such a collective ordeal, that politicians act swiftly and coherently the world over. The past eighteen months have been a painful learning experience and the lessons learnt must not be forgotten. And one of the most important has to be that children do not ‘slip from sight’. We have been through a period of unparalleled state dirigisme yet what’s become clear is how much of our social and economic life has been beyond control. Covid has meant everyone knows what it’s like to feel vulnerable. That life might be curtailed. Hopefully, we will all now closely identify with the weakest and most at risk in society. The vaccinations are a testament to the genius of our species. But it could be costly if we allow them to lull us into a false sense of security. The desire – repeatedly heard – to return to normality is understandable yet flawed. There can be no new normal as the long-term risks of Covid cannot yet be known. What is understood is the disease can affect every organ in the body. Only time will tell what the consequences of that might be. ‘Long Covid’ is already affecting tens of thousands of people in the UK.
We have been humbled by nature and given a warning. It’s time to rediscover the humility of the ancients when they looked up at the stars. One feels they had a sense of being a part of a much greater whole. Thinking we can stand apart from nature whilst exerting control over it has got us into this fix. If we can appreciate we are all connected we will not allow the most vulnerable to slip from our view. Covid should be a long, ongoing lesson in humility. We need to foster a new attitude – one that sees the natural world as our home which must be deserving of respect.
Fostering with Rainbow means being part of a dedicated team. It’s one whose efforts have been rated ‘Outstanding in all areas’ by Ofsted. All our foster carers have the close support of a social worker there to help support the placement. We are an agency that prides itself on listening to its foster carers as we know it’s crucial to helping them give the best care to children – as well as meeting their fostering career aspirations.
We urgently need more people to foster in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and parts of Hampshire. Foster homes are needed for teenagers, sibling groups, and children with complex needs. There is also a growing need to provide homes for young mothers and their babies – known as parent and child fostering.
You can become a foster carer whatever your background. So whether you’re married, single, female or male, renting or a homeowner, straight, gay, lesbian trans or bisexual – our friendly, helpful recruitment team will advise you. To foster with us, you will need to be over 21 and have a spare bedroom for a child. What matters most of all is you have the interest and motivation to care and support the child or young person you are looking after.
What comes next.
Start your journey to becoming a fostering professional today by calling 0330 311 2845.
We have provided a list of answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive about fostering from people interested in becoming carers. Hopefully, it will prove helpful and can be found at – http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/frequent-asked-questions/ And another of our blogs covering a particular fostering topic can be found at:
http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/foster-carers-and-how-tech-can-change-family-dynamics-1/ For the latest information on staying safe visit – https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/coronavirus