COVID-19 has impacted the lives of all of us, but studies of mental health outcomes indicate that two groups in particular are facing significant mental health challenges: young adults, and parents of kids under 18. Foster parents and young adults in extended foster care face additional stressors and challenges during this time. In addition to disproportionate economic hardships and increased challenges of staying healthy in communal living settings, foster families are also dealing with disrupted access to support like courts, social workers and school support systems.
There are however some additional resources that have been made available to foster parents and foster youth. In April 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order that invested $42 million in resources to help foster youth. According to a statement released by the governor’s office, this funding provides:
- Family Resource Centers: Family Resource Centers play a critical role in preventing child abuse and neglect, strengthening children and families, and connecting families to an array of county support systems of care. This funding will provide direct support and services to foster families, including material items, assistance with isolation needs, parenting resources, and staff time to help link families to other state and federal supports (e.g. food, housing, etc.).
- Expansion of Helplines: Funds will assist 2-1-1 and Parents Anonymous to offer immediate assistance to families in crisis who are seeking assistance. Parents Anonymous will provide expanded hours of services, link parents to online support groups and will make referrals to county and local services and Family Resource Centers as needed.
- Age Extension for Foster Youth: Approximately 200 young adults age out of the foster care system every month. Too many of them are at risk of homelessness and food insecurity. During this crisis, foster care payments and eligibility will be extended to help them maintain their living arrangements and to provide food security.
- Additional Support for Resource Families Impacted by COVID-19: Families impacted by COVID-19 can receive higher monthly reimbursement rates to cover the extra costs associated with supporting children with more complex needs. Flexibility for counties to use these reimbursement rates will make sure that foster children can stay in their homes and not be moved into shelters or other facilities.
One significant need that has been noted by many youth and foster parents is for technology that enables foster youth to participate in remote learning and stay in contact with their birth families and social workers safely. In one survey from the John Burton Advocates for Youth, a survey of 60 social service agencies was conducted to learn how youth aged 18 to 21 were fairing during the pandemic. Thirty-four agencies, serving 1,728 youth, responded, and 74% of them said they served foster youth who stopped participating in high school or college classes because of the pandemic. Sixty-five percent of agencies said they served youth who needed technology support, such as a laptop, tutoring or the internet.
To address this need the State of California has provided funding to iFoster who will give more foster youth access to cell phones and laptops so they can stay connected with their families and communities, and continue to participate in educational opportunities during this crisis. Governor Newsom is also directing the state Government Operations Agency to utilize the State Surplus Property Program to identify laptops that can be distributed to foster youth attending higher education.
If you are a foster parent and are concerned about your foster child, reach out to A Home Within who provides free mental health support to current and former foster youth during the pandemic.
The Foster Care Ombudsperson Office is monitoring the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). If you are a foster youth or need support, contact them at 1-877-846-1602 or use the link to their website for additional information. They are open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The California Family Urgent Response System is a coordinated statewide, regional, and county-level system designed to provide collaborative and timely state-level phone-based response and county-level in-home, in-person mobile response during situations of instability, to preserve the relationship of the caregiver and the child or youth.
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