We asked Jessica Mendez, state manager for KidsPeace Foster Care in Virginia, for her thoughts on the following question: How are the foster families supported by your office dealing with the stress of COVID-19 related lockdowns?
“For most of our foster families, there are typical stresses whether or not there is a pandemic. Those stresses can look like children wanting to see their biological families, feeling anxious about being rejected, children isolating due to depressive symptoms, and can also look like children being defiant and not wanting to attend school due to being academically behind.
“Now, with COVID19, these stressors and issues have gotten worse. Children are unable to visit in person with their biological families and some biological families may not have the electronic capabilities to connect virtually. Children are unable to have reprieve from a disagreement in a home, or have access to coping mechanisms that they typically utilized before to decrease their anxiety of rejection, and so we see more of those children running away.
“By the way, that issue is compounded by the mere fact that now this child may have been exposed to COVID19 and will need to isolate when they return to the family. That social isolation in general causes some depressive symptoms, and can be detrimental for our children in care. Our foster families work hard with our children to ensure that they are still socializing but at the same time making sure to give them their space.
“Stress is also coming from foster families being asked to educate their children in the home. Our families are struggling to figure out ways to motivate the children who often were not motivated to begin with when they were attending school in person. It’s hard on the families and they’re left with a feeling of defeat at times, because they realize this is another setback for the children in care who may be behind educationally already.
“KidsPeace Family Consultants have worked hard to provide coping strategies that our foster families can share with the children. They’ve also worked hard to provide education regarding signs of self-harm, so the foster families can monitor the children for that as well.”
Jessica Mendez is state manager for KidsPeace Foster Care in Virginia