“A giving spirit”: Getting children in foster care through the pandemic

Chelsea Sheasley, The Christian Science Monitor •
young person in black and white

"You don't want me." 

The words spilled out of 4-year-old Jimmy as he sat crying in an unfamiliar bedroom, his third foster home in two weeks. Earlier that week, in another house, he’d run from window to window watching his caseworker depart and shouting, “Don’t leave me!” 

The first two families couldn’t keep him because the parents worked full-time and no in-person preschool was available due to pandemic-related school closures – closures the agency hadn’t heard about.

Since that time four months ago, Jimmy, whose real name isn't being used to protect his privacy, has stayed in the same foster home. His foster parent says he now jokes and plays at bedtime. Caring for him can be difficult, though. He struggles with health problems and trauma, and finding services is tough. But he also gives hugs and shares his drawings freely. 

“He still has the ability to love and bond, and that’s what brings me to tears,” says his foster mother, who lives in Chicago and asked to remain anonymous to protect Jimmy. 

Youth in foster care face heightened challenges during the pandemic, which poses severe tests even while revealing resilience among children and those working with them – and prompting new efforts to help. These glimmers of hope are occurring amid the backdrop of a public health crisis that is disrupting foster care placements, delaying reunification with parents, and adding health and economic stress for biological parents, foster parents, and children who are left without support systems like in-person school or therapy.

“The whole system has become more sluggish,” says Jill Duerr Berrick, a child welfare researcher and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s made it more difficult to provide services to families ... and more difficult to get kids in regular contact with their families.”

Read the Full article and hear from Marcía Hopkins, Juvenile Law Center's Senior Manager of the Youth Advocacy Program & Policy. 

About the Expert

Hopkins facilitates Juvenile Law Center’s Youth Advocacy Program: Youth Fostering Change, Juveniles for Justice, and the Youth Speakers Bureau. She also works closely with our attorneys on various policy-focused projects related to foster youth and transition-aged youth.