Fostering in a Pandemic

This is an extra awful time to be involved in the child welfare system, whether you are a foster parent, a biological parent, or a foster child. I have heard of foster parents anxious about having to deal with in person visits and risk bringing illness into their own home. Other foster parents still seem more anxious about keeping babies and young children entertained for a virtual visit. And then there are the bio parents. Can you imagine if you were just weeks away from reunification and all your visits came to a halt? All that time spent working on bonding and making connections with your child totally coming to a screeching halt? And then of course for our most vulnerable kiddos, who thrive on routine, and then their school, therapies, and visits with their parents have to stop. The thing is, there’s no good solution. Continue as normal and we risk spreading this awful virus, stop everything, and we risk harm to the parent and child relationship. So as we face this new normal together, I wanted to share some encouragement for how we are handling things here at the Cradle Household in regards to fostering.

I got word from my perinatologist last week that our entire family is on strict quarantine, due to the fact that I am pregnant and have multiple immune system issues alongside being a diabetic this pregnancy. She stressed this meant that we could not do in person visits with anyone. I am not allowed to leave the house to go to the grocery store, my husband cannot be around people except to shop for our essentials. I was gutted for our Fosterling’s parents, though we had discussed that might happen soon anyway. The first thing I did was contact our county social worker with a couple of plans. I asked her opinion on feasibility and legality of the options I had in mind. She gave me the option to present it to each of the baby’s parents or for her to handle it. Because I have open communication with her parent’s, I thought it would be better coming from me, and we agreed if we came to an impasse, we would include the social worker in the communication.

Both parents were incredibly understanding, and we agreed to set up more regular communication, and chose Marco Polo for video chatting instead of FaceTime since in the past they have observed it is hard for a toddler to sit still for a long FaceTime visit. Marco Polo gives us the option of recording and sending videos back and forth at each party’s convenience, and it gives each of us the option of replaying videos to encourage that familiarity with baby and parent. We also have been sending more picture and video messages. We’ve always sent pictures here and there, but now, I’m making a more concerted effort to take multiple pictures a day specifically to send to them. Is it going to be a little tricky handling two different parents and their virtual communication with a very young child? Sure. But I cannot imagine being a parent and not having access to my child because of a freak virus that is overtaking the world. Is it going to be easy? No, but it beats having a child be a viral go between back and forth through 3 different households and possibly putting my and my unborn baby at risk.

These are unprecedented times. Your social workers are overwhelmed, their guidelines are changing just as rapidly as everything else in the world, and they may not have reached out yet because they are likely just as stressed as you are. Do your best as a foster parent to come up with a plan. Do your best as a foster parent to be a good communicator with your placement’s family. Do your best to keep everyone in your care safe. Do your best to keep positive.