Foster care youth feel serious impact of pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS — The pandemic’s impact on the thousands of children in the state’s foster care system is perhaps not something many people consider, but it is serious.

Adoption experts explain every emotion we are feeling, like anxiety and fear, is amplified for these children.

“The urgency is magnified,” said Tasha Rihm, a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids adoption recruiter.

Based on data from the state’s Department of Child Services, there are just over 13,000 youth in foster care in Indiana. Over 2,500 of them are from Marion County.

“No child should have to experience a crisis like this without the comfort and security of a family around them,” said Rita Soronen, president & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Rihm described some of the challenges magnified by COVID-19 placed on children without permanent homes.

“They don’t have anybody who can call and check up on them, who they can call to talk to if they’re anxious or they’re scared,” Rihm said.

Rihm explained the pandemic has paused some adoptions. It has left some children in limbo as they stay in temporary homes, or group settings, unaware of where they will go next and for how long. She said this also potentially puts them at more risk of catching the virus.

“It also isolates them further from a community that they’re already isolated from, because they’re not getting face-to-face visits from workers, from family members,” Soronen said.

To add to the growing problem of finding safe homes for children, DCS reported the number of calls into their child abuse and neglect hotline is down and possibly under reported from this time last year. Without school or face-to-face meetings, teachers and other caregivers are not seeing the children.

April 2019, 22,396 calls and/or reports were made. In April 2020, that number stood at 12,834. They urge people with any information that could help protect a child to call 1-800-800-5556. It is staffed around the clock.

The Dave Thomas Foundation also urges people to call children in foster care and offer support.

“You can give time, whether it’s volunteering in whatever capacity, being a tutor, being a mentor,” Rihm said.

If you are considering welcoming a foster child into your family, there are many online resources available for you. Here are few:

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