There is no perfect time for a system like the child welfare system to deal with a crisis that is larger than life. As the world faces the coronavirus pandemic, the impact on foster care arises. During Hurricane Katrina, foster families quickly gathered their belongings and the children they were fostering and moved out of harm’s way. They then notified their social workers of their moves and let them know that the children were safe. The system was in turmoil and afterward, procedures were put in place to help families do a better job of letting the workers know where the children were at all times.
A Hidden Impact
As COVID-19 spreads across our nation, we see its impact everywhere. Flights are empty. Stores and restaurants are shut down. School playgrounds are quiet. People are laid off from their jobs. Hospitals are full and overflowing. It’s easy to focus on how the pandemic affects us…but as Christians, we need to ask how it is affecting others, our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us, and we need to ask God what He would have us do about it.
There are few people in the United States more vulnerable than abused and neglected children. Tragically, these often-invisible children are made even more invisible when something looms so large over our collective thinking as does COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Rest assured, COVID-19 did not take God by surprise. Nor has it caused Him to withdraw His calling on our lives to love our neighbors as ourselves…including our youngest neighbors who are in, or are on the edge of, foster care. Pure and undefiled religion – caring for widows and orphans in their distress — is not redefined in the age of COVID-19 (coronavirus) .
Safe Place at School
There are many ways the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic affects, or might affect, children and families who are either in the foster care system or are at risk of being so. The effects of the pandemic might put children at increased risk in ways that might not be so obvious.
When schools began closing, one could almost hear the cheers of children’s voices all across the nation. For many children, the idea of staying in the comfort of their own homes instead of getting up early and going to work hard in school all day is very appealing.
For other children, however, the opposite is true. For some children, who come from homes marked by abuse, neglect, substance abuse, domestic violence, and other dysfunction, school was perhaps the only safe place they had. In their teachers, they had loving, caring adults who wanted to help them thrive, who didn’t harm them, who could look after them and perhaps even detect signs of abuse or neglect and protect them from further harm. They also had opportunities to safely talk to others about what they were enduring at home.
With school taken away from them, these children now not only lack their safety nets, but they are left at home for hours on end with abusive and/or neglectful parents, who may find themselves experiencing more stress due to the children’s constant presence, or perhaps due to financial concerns, and more. The increased stress puts these children at higher risk for abuse, and without school, they are less able to tell anyone they can trust about it.
Ways You Help During This Time
Will you join us in praying for children and families such as these? Pray that parents and caretakers will not take their stress out on their children, that they will provide for their children and love them as God calls them to, and that they will provide a safe home for their children in which they can thrive. For those children who are abused and/or neglected, pray that they will be known. Pray that others will hear or see something and call the appropriate authorities. Pray that the children can find safe adults and tell them that they are being harmed and pray that the children will be removed from their abusive homes and placed into safe homes with loving families.
In addition to praying, we would ask that you be extra vigilant in these times. Look out for signs of abuse and neglect. Listen for the quiet cries of children who suffer behind closed doors. If you suspect abuse or neglect, call the child abuse hotline in your area (or call the national hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD). Be your brother’s keeper in these difficult times. Children’s lives and well-being depend on the rest of us being hyper-vigilant by looking and listening and acting on what we see and hear.