Paso Robles News|Thursday, February 22, 2024
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COVID-19 worsens severe shortage of homes for SLO County children in foster care 

foster care

County asks local families to open their homes to children in need during pandemic

–The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is worsening a severe shortage of resource families, formerly known as foster families, in SLO County. The pandemic has put pressure on the foster care system at multiple levels: reports of severe abuse or neglect, which require moving children to a safer home, have increased; young people in extended foster care have lost on-campus housing as universities close; and resource families who regularly open their homes are temporarily unable to do so because their age or health put them at high risk from COVID-19.

On average, the County’s Department of Social Services (DSS) receives 270 referrals per month to its child abuse reporting hotline. While referrals have dropped slightly under Shelter at Home orders ⎯likely because children are not as often interacting with teachers and other adults who would report concerns⎯the severity of the reported abuse has increased and children need to be moved to safer environments through foster care.

“We are calling on our community to step up to care for these youth, who through no fault of their own are in desperate need of a safe, loving and stable home environment, especially during this pandemic,” said Devin Drake, Director of DSS. “We all have a collective responsibility to make sure our community’s kids are healthy and safe. That is truer than ever during challenging times.”

The County is seeking individuals and families to provide homes on both a short term (3-6 months) or longer term (6 months or more) basis. In particular, the County needs homes open to children age 10 and older, including teenagers and young adults in extended foster care who have lost on- campus housing because their schools closed in response to the pandemic. The County also needs homes that may have the ability to quarantine a sick child.

DSS provides one-on-one guidance and financial support for resource families throughout the time they provide care. Now, DSS is working with Public Health Department nurses to help families navigate the unique challenges of COVID-19 to protect the health of the child and family.

“I want to express my deep gratitude to all the resource families currently caring for children, youth and teens in the foster care system, as well as our social workers and staff,” said Drake. “They provide safe, loving, and stable home environments for youth in our community who have experienced trauma in the form of abuse, neglect, and abandonment.”

If you are able to help: please call (805) 781-1705 or visit www.slofostercare.com.

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog.