SALLY HO and CAMILLE FASSETT The Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — Leroy Pascubillo missed her daughter’s first steps, first words, and countless other precious milestones. After being born with heroin addiction, she was taken care of by a foster parent, anxiously counting the days before her visit while trying to regain custody. But because of the pandemic, visits were reduced and virtualized, and all he could do was see his daughter (too young to get involved through a computer) trying to crawl up the screen.
According to the Associated Press, which analyzed child welfare data from 34 states, they were prevented from reuniting by foster care nationwide because courts delayed cases and were virtually or temporarily closed. Is one of the thousands of families.
The decline in children leaving foster care means that families stay in a temporary system for longer because important services are closed or restricted. According to experts, vulnerable families suffer long-term, perhaps irreparable damage, and parents can weaken their ties with their children.
According to AP analysis, the first few months of the pandemic saw at least 8,700 fewer reunions, a 16% reduction compared to the period from March to December of the previous year. According to the analysis, adoption also decreased by 23%. Overall, at least 22,600 children have left foster care compared to 2019.
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“Everyone needed special help and no one got special help,” said Shawn Powell, coordinator of the Parents for Parents Advocacy Program in King County, Washington.
King County, like many parts of the country, suspended almost all hearings except emergency orders for several months, caused by child welfare reports and other warning signs rather than family reunions. Child removal was prioritized. Adoption was slowly slowed down. The services required for reintegration — psychotherapy, random drug testing, group therapy, mental health counseling, housing assistance, and public transport to access these services — were also limited.
For foster children, even the appointment of a doctor requires judge approval, and dissatisfied lawyers say it is as routine as it is affected.
During the period surveyed by the AP analysis, the total foster parent population declined by 2% overall. Decreased reports of child abuse and neglect, Usually the process of taking the child out of the house begins.
According to national data, the average length of stay in foster care centers is about 20 months, which was most affected in the early months of the pandemic when they joined the foster care system long before the pandemic. It means that they are the children who were doing it.
National data also show that foster parents are disproportionately colored children and children from poor families. These groups tend to have more contact with social welfare agencies that are obliged to report potential abuses and neglects. This means that the pandemic has amplified not only the poor parenting challenges, but also the poor parenting challenges.
“The systematic issues surrounding racism and poverty in the new coronavirus infection, and the way people are treated in the child welfare system, may be deteriorating,” said Sharon, a state-owned think tank group, Child Trend. Vandiver said. The chances of a reunion are low. “It used to be terrible and probably made it worse.”
For a black teenage DY living in a group home in the Seattle area, the pandemic amplified the loneliness and isolation of caring for child protection services. He has been removed from his mother’s custody since 2016 after reports of abuse revealed that his mother was physically disciplining his children, although he had been with her for the next few years. The lawyer was hoping that his mother would regain custody and DY would return home in the fall of 2020. After that, Pandemic shook his lawsuit and life.
Due to the new COVID-19 protocol and lack of staff, the privileges already restricted in the facility’s group homes have been reduced or revoked. The direct visit with his mother has ended. The group’s activities have almost disappeared. In his mind, he wore a mask and was always resentful at washing his hands. Every time he was afraid of exposure in the living facility, he and others had to be isolated.
When he reopened face-to-face school, he wanted officials to be able to safely reunite with his mother, but that didn’t happen for months. He was left with his relatives last summer and was helplessly watching his sister, who had a case further in the system when the pandemic began, return to her mother. DY was pleased with them, but he wants the same: tasting his mother’s food, making eggs in his kitchen, sitting on the couch with his family without a mask.
A 13-year-old boy said, “I still want her to have a baby,” about her mother, who refused to comment on the story while the case of DY and her third child continued. “I find she has a lot of confidence in when I get home, though I don’t know what will happen in the future.”
AP does not name it DY, but instead refers to him in the initials used in his proceedings against the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Family. The proceedings also accused DY of providing inadequate care as it passed 50 placements before the pandemic, and there were days when he was taken to a motel or agency office building. Refused to comment on the proceedings and the proceedings.
However, Frank Audway, chief of staff at the state’s child welfare agency, has accused court closures as a cause of reduced reintegration and prioritized cases like DY to those who have not yet fully reopened. I begged you to do it.
“If these systems aren’t working, their families and their children are left half-hearted,” said Audway. The pandemic was a disastrous experience. “
Nicole Wagner, Secretary of the King County Superior Court, is the chief judge of the family court system, and court officials, lawyers, social workers, and counselors have done their best, but no one has a way to deal with the unprecedented problems of pandemics. She said she didn’t know. For example, she wanted the children to visit them in person, but couldn’t order social workers with underlying illness to monitor them if required by law.
Wagner said he hopes that the lessons learned from the pandemic will help redefine how the system supports families who are already struggling in the process of reintegration.
“It’s scary, overwhelming, scary, and it’s about the most important thing in your life: your child,” Wagner said. “Pandemic is absolutely 100% to more vulnerable people. There is no doubt that it affected the imbalance. “
Illinois was the only state with increased foster care termination. Others in the AP analysis noted a significant decrease, but said that each foster care case had its own situation below the numbers.
For example, many states have expanded their support to those in need of care in aging states during a pandemic. This change in policy effectively protected young foster parents from being expelled from their living arrangements if they still needed a place to stay, but it also affected the number of foster care terminations. I did.
In Connecticut, exits were one of the most reduced at 36%, waiting for a full face-to-face visit until May 2021.
A Connecticut child and family spokeswoman said, “We have never stopped servicing our children and families. It is more efficient to do some of our work virtually, and in some cases to our clients. I found it to be preferred. “
Leroy Pascubijo, now 51, has been on drugs for 40 years and began working to stop drinking shortly after his daughter was born in February 2019.
The court put him in the only drug rehab center in the Seattle area where he could stay on the premises with his father. He meets his daughter several times a week and was told that if he passed the early stages of the program, he would be able to join him with his daughter until treatment was completed in March 2020. .. The pandemic overturned the plan.
“You start building that relationship, but it’s removed and you try to start over,” he said. Even more painful was knowing that the two-year-old daughter is no longer in contact with her mother. Pascubillo said she had not participated in the detention proceedings and was unable to contact the AP.
As the court began hearing the existing proceedings again, Pascubilo was able to reunite with her daughter, complete her rehab, and live in a Seattle apartment with the support of state and nonprofits. He wants to work as a parent’s spokesman to help other fathers find a way to get their children back. He is still crying because of the time he lost and the four-month delay in reuniting with his daughter.
“It felt like 40 years. I thought she would have forgotten about me. But as soon as I saw her and sang” Baby, Baby, Baby, “she was as if she was hungry. I started kicking as if I were inside, “Pascubijo said.
Fassett is a member of the Associated Press / American Statehouse News Initiative Report, reporting from Santa Cruz, CA. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that assigns journalists to local media outlets to report on unreported issues.
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AP Analysis: COVID Extends Thousands of Foster Care Stays | National News
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