While most children in the country are dealing with the frustrations of missing their friends, a hiatus in sports seasons, and closed playgrounds, others worry about the very real possibility of homelessness, abuse, or neglect. Most of all, they face the fear and uncertainty of wondering if they are alone.
This is a fear no child should ever endure. As we stay home to protect the medically fragile and elderly, we can’t forget this other highly vulnerable group.
I won’t parse words: The number of children in foster care will dramatically increase because of the coronavirus pandemic. It will upend the lives of countless children and families across the country. Like any worldwide crisis or natural disaster, the pandemic has amplified the vulnerability of the already vulnerable and will disproportionately impact them.
The current circumstances have brought further financial and emotional strain on families living paycheck to paycheck or parents fighting addiction. Unsurprisingly, history suggests that domestic violence and child abuse worsen during disasters. Research shows that increased stress can result in substance abuse or child neglect—two factors that increase the likelihood of a child’s removal from home and placement into foster care.
Making matters worse, we expect child abuse and neglect are going unreported. Usually, evidence of child abuse would be noticed by a teacher or school nurse, but right now, at-risk children are isolated at home and out of sight.
Plus, shelter-in-place orders, job losses, and the closing of courts make it harder for biological families to regain custody of their children. Many children who were likely to be reunited with their biological parents will remain in the foster ...1
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