There is no doubt that COVID-19 will impact the foster care community, which already stands at more than 437,000 children living in foster care across the U.S. Added stress brought on by unemployment and financial insecurity has strained relationships between children and their parents/caregivers, putting them at even higher risk than normal. With schools closed, these children no longer have an outlet where they can tell someone they trust about what’s happening.
With foster care organizations expecting to see more child removals over the next several months, we have an opportunity to learn from this situation. Old processes must be restructured in a way that modernizes and innovates the foster care industry—putting the needs of children and their foster families first.
A COVID-19 telehealth transformation
A behavioral, mental health and family counseling center in the Florida Panhandle is doing just that. Life Management Center’s Foster Parent Training program restructured its training and communications as a result of social distancing measures put into place during COVID-19.
When faced with the challenge of how the organization was going to offer its required foster family training amid COVID-19 social distancing requirements, they turned to a proven solution being leveraged elsewhere in the Panhandle—telehealth. By implementing virtual training sessions, the program recently hosted its first online mandatory foster family training classes.
Secure, safe training sessions
Embracing telehealth did not happen without some hesitation. One of the main concerns of the Life Management Center is privacy. The team needed a technology platform that is proven to be HIPAA compliant and completely secure in order to take the seven-week quality parent training courses virtual.
“We desperately needed a safe solution to keep our training process moving forward. The quarantine restrictions will make an impact on foster families--we’ll likely see an increase in domestic violence and substance misuse. We’re expecting to see more child removals over the next few months, and a greater need for more foster parents,” expressed Cathy Harcus, Foster Family Support Program Director.
Telehealth helps address the growing need
As a result of leveraging telehealth technology for Life Management Center’s family training, the program is able to maintain a roster of families, which means more children can stay close to home.
“Our goal is to help keep these children closer to their families and in their communities so they can have the opportunity to return,” added Harcus. “Our virtual training solutions are enabling us to reach that goal and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”
COVID-19 will no doubt have a lasting impact on our world. We have the opportunity to come out of this pandemic with new, improved approaches to barriers that have been in the Foster Care system for years. By evolving our approach to everyday tasks, we can have an even greater impact on the children who need us most.