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Foster Care Families in W.Va. Feeling Strain Of The Pandemic

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Joanie Tobin/100 Days in Appalachia
Lisa Robbins and her two grandchildren at her home in Maryville, Tennessee.

Like most parents, foster caregivers are struggling with the strain of the pandemic.

To help, in April, May and July, Gov. Justice and the state Department of Health and Human Resources provided three separate payments — totaling about $100 per foster child — to foster families. The funding came from the CARES Act, which Congress passed in March. Some lower income families received additional support. 

Marissa Sanders, who runs the Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Parents Network, said many families are worried about continuing to care for their foster children. “Families are faced with income challenges or child care and work challenges.”

Sanders said foster parents are also concerned about their family’s health. She says it isn’t clear if foster parents will be able to make the decision, for example, to do virtual school. “It takes a lot of the decision-making for in terms of my family’s safety out of [their] hands. So I worry that we’ll see people get frustrated with that. Or say ‘I have to work and I can’t get childcare.’”

A spokesperson with the DHHR said the agency is committed to getting foster families the support and resources they need. As a result of legislation passed earlier this year, the state increased rates for certified foster parents from $19.73 per day to $26 a day.

During the pandemic, there have been fewer referrals for investigations of child abuse or neglect, compared to 2019. Last year, from March-May, there were 11,499 referrals, according to data obtained by West Virginia Public Broadcasting from the DHHR. This year, during those same months, there were 6,991 referrals.

It’s not yet clear if cases of abuse are going underreported because children are out of school and not being seen by teachers, or how the return to school this fall may affect the state’s already overwhelmed foster care system. 

 

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