Foster care children at risk during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 9:06 PM, Mar 19, 2020

There were more than 16,000 children currently in foster care in Ohio as of Jan 1, 2020, and the president of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption said many of them may be vulnerable during this coronavirus pandemic.

Rita Soronen is the president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation and said the pandemic has "multiple layers" for children, some of whom might be with extended family members, in foster care or in institutional or group homes.

"When you look at the pandemic in terms of those children who are in maybe institutional or group homes, they’re already socially isolated in a way," Soronen said. "They’re at a higher risk of perhaps getting the virus, simply because they’re in a group situation, no matter how good everybody is at quickly making sure things are sterile."

Even if they're healthy, Soronen said there are risks.

"They tend not to have that same kind of technology available to them, and so they’re just adding to the layers of trauma that they already have," Soronen said. "They become much more socially isolated and that can cause much more psychological harm."

It can also cause issues for children who are in a family situation where "economic security is not absolutely secure," Soronen said.

"If the family loses their job during this epidemic, or if they have extended family members who become ill, there’s a risk that that child who is in care will have to move to another home, and that adds another layer of trauma of yet again a multiple move," Soronen said.

The pandemic can even be harmful to young people who have aged out of the foster care system without being adopted but who have found a way to go to college.

"When colleges close down, those children don’t have a family to go home to, and so they’re at risk of becoming homeless, simply by virtue of this epidemic," Soronen said.

Soronen also noted that children in foster care are at much higher risk for acute health care issues to begin with, given the trauma and issues they've experienced in their lives.

"Children come into care because they’ve been abused, neglected, abandoned. Those are immediate situations that cause trauma for a child," Soronen said. "Frequently they move from home to home, they may move from school to school, they may become disassociated from extended family members, and so they experience multiple layers of trauma, which then can help foster kinds of health or psychological issues that they carry with them."

For more information about the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, click here.