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Another way COVID has hurt kids? A slowdown in the foster system

child and teddy bear
The pandemic has affected everything from a slowing of the court processes to treatment programs to employment to stable housing,

Listen: In this interview, Glen Casel, CEO of the nonprofit Embrace Families, talks about how the pandemic has slowed adoptions and placements.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140,000 children have been orphaned by COVID in the U.S. 

WMFE spoke with Glen Casel, CEO of Embrace Families, about how the pandemic has slowed adoptions and placements.  The nonprofit organization provides foster care and related child services in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

CASEL: It has really slowed down. And that’s, you know, one of those just one of many unfortunate byproducts of dealing with the pandemic, it is more difficult to do lots of things most significantly, the court process.

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

And so, unfortunately, that has meant a slowdown of that process of a family kind of navigating to conclusion, will a family be able to parent, will a parent be able to take care of their children? Or will a courtroom make a decision that says, "No, I do not think that they should be allowed to continue to parent."

Well, not only the court process slows down through the pandemic, but even more so the indirect impact on families are those other services that they need to access have all become more complicated. And so it might be a treatment program, or it might be employment, or maybe stable housing, all of those things have been shuffled around through the pandemic, and it has caused our foster care cases to slow down and that it really is unfortunate for the foster care system, but most significantly, for the children involved, right? If you drag out three months, or six months or 12 months, you know, that’s that’s a whole nother school year that a child’s uncertain as to what that permanent solution is, what is the answer going forward? And that really has been difficult for us to deal with.

WMFE: You know, in the long term, what do you what do you think some of the consequences of this situation you just described might be?

Yeah, it’s, I think a lot of these sort of ripple consequences through the pandemic, the more you peel into our society, I think the more you find them, and so many of those will probably never be able to really be fully understood or calculated.

And one of maybe an illustration of that that’s been really concerning to me, as the pandemic has has drawn on, is if you look at the children that we have in foster care, that need extensive high-level kinds of placements, they need serious treatment. Usually for behavioral health, mental health, conduct-related kind of situations, but it could also be a physical ailment or developmental situation that really causes the need for that very expensive, kind of really intense placement. We’ve seen that grow 100%.

Are there more people coming forward to be that foster family for some of these kids?

So a lot of our kind of system indicators. What does that volume look like? How much is it changing? Are starting to get back to normal. Our foster families have been amazing. Even in sort of the height of the original wave or the height of the delta variant here in Central Florida. We’ve had foster parents still accepting new children into their home.

Copyright 2021 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Danielle Prieur