When COVID-19 recedes, child abuse reports and foster care needs are expected to surge. Online services, training and data can strengthen the system.

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There has been a significant drop in reports of child abuse and neglect during the coronavirus pandemic. Many fear that as we emerge, the child welfare system will be flooded as the impacts of family stress become public again. In preparation, state foster care departments must improve their operations to better serve foster parents and assist social workers with complex cases.

First, all states should offer foster parent training online.A number of states including Illinois and Tennessee were moving in this direction. But online training makes even more sense in light of COVID-19 and the adaptations many families already have made to group learning.

Currently, many states have inflexible training schedules for the foster parent classes that happen only on certain evenings and at certain locations. Coordinating schedules of working parents for their own families is challenging, but getting a dozen or more family units in the same place for 20 to 30 hours of training with commuting considerations and other family and work commitments is nearly impossible.

Online training draws more families

Many qualified individuals never become foster parents because they can not overcome the training schedule barrier. The best trauma-informed training content could be viewed when convenient for parents. Agencies would just need to produce some state-specific information, and add in some social aspects to allow newly trained parents to be connected so they can support each other as they embark on the foster parent journey. One organization in Arkansas decided to offer training online this spring and more than doubled the number of families that signed up during the first month of the lockdown.

Second, social workers should utilize technology to support the most experienced foster parents. Foster parents often joke that the easy part of foster care is welcoming and caring for the kids in their 真人百家家乐官网网站home; it is the full-time job they have with dozens of meetings with numerous social workers, court employees, medical appointments, school personnel, and visits with birth families that is the hard part.

In surveys, foster parents regularly complain about last-minute visits from social workers and schedule changes from therapists, lawyers, and guardians ad litem. Telehealth medical appointments in recent months have given many a glimpse of the convenience that’s possible and the headaches that can be avoided with small children. Video calls save enormous amounts of time commuting and sitting in waiting rooms. And they can allow for greater support if more frequent check-ins are needed, instead of the current one-size-fits-all required in-person visits.

Coronavirus: Virginia and Florida have partnered with a non-profit called Family-Match that uses information on personalities, expectations, parental experience, resiliency factors and other information to increase placement stability. This kind of data-driven process is quicker, can result in 真人百家家乐官网网站homes that better meet the needs of kids, and also bypasses a very common situation where an open 真人百家家乐官网网站home is available in the next country or town but is not made available by a neighboring office.

COVID and reopening: @josharchambault and @NaomiSRiley

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