Friday, March 27, 2020

NCCPR in Youth Today: Child welfare’s response to COVID-19 is sickening

All over America, there are people who can’t stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some always knew their jobs carried risks: Doctors and nurses, police and firefighters, and, yes, child protective services caseworkers. Others were, in effect, drafted into the fight: Letter carriers, pharmacists, truck drivers and all those people stocking shelves and running cash registers at grocery stores. And then there are the people who simply volunteer — like those delivering meals to the elderly.

But while so many others are stepping up, some foster parents in New Mexico and Kentucky are whining because they can’t step away. They’re complaining because — at least for now — they are not allowed to cut their foster children off from all in-person visits with their own families.

Worse, these states may soon be an exception. Other states and localities have, in fact, cut off in-person visits between foster children and their families — and even their siblings in separate foster homes. Many court systems, while continuing to hold hearings to rubber-stamp taking children away from their parents, have shut down hearings to send them home again — so foster children will not only be further isolated from their own families, the isolation will be prolonged. …

I’m sure there are individual foster parents who are extending themselves heroically to keep foster children in touch with their families. There are caseworkers putting themselves at risk both to investigate actual child abuse and to help families stay together when their poverty is confused with neglect. As always, the bad news gets the attention.

But the predominant institutional response of child welfare systems reveals greed, fear and selfishness. All sorts of other businesses are donating to help fight COVID-19 — including breweries converting their production lines to make hand sanitizer and already hard-hit restaurants donating meals. They say the same thing: We help now; we’ll figure out the money later. But not child welfare. 

In short, child welfare’s response to COVID-19 is sickening. …

  Read the full column in Youth Today