The kids we represent are being forgotten and left behind by the systems charged with protecting them. Social distancing and fear of infection in the courts and among case workers have created new challenges that leave kids and their wellbeing to fall through the cracks.
Children in the foster system can no longer have regularly scheduled visits with their parents—for little children especially, a video chat is no replacement for a hug. Foster care adoptions are at a standstill, and some qualified foster parents, fearing infection, are refusing to take children into their homes. In group foster homes and juvenile detention centers, never safe places for children, over 175 have tested positive in at least 18 states.
Children in state care are overall in poorer physical health than their peers. This places them at a higher risk of infection while living in traumatizing conditions that are exacerbated by isolation.
Children’s Rights is committed to keeping children safe during this crisis. We have built a national triage movement in response to the effects of COVID-19, partnering with other advocates, nonprofits, and government officials. We are putting protocols and contingencies in place that protect kids and calling out bad practices that will hurt them. We are lifting up concerns as we probe and hear of more problems, and putting pressure on governments to address them.
In the last few weeks our rapid response team has:
- Developed thoughtful guidelines for states and advocates – that are being adopted – to make extended foster care services available for older youth who now find themselves at risk of homelessness and hunger.
- Shined a light through press interviews and online about the tragic removal of children over issues entirely out of poor parents’ control, such as when water services have been shut off due to nonpayment.
- Called on all states to make sure that in this time of crisis they do not relax core safety standards, such as rigorous staff training and accreditation processes that protect kids.
- Urged state and local governments to ensure protection and support for older foster youth by stopping youth from aging out for the foreseeable future.
- As more juveniles in group settings test positive for the virus, we are spearheading a national movement to release youth from of all detention facilities, jails, and foster care group homes and institutions.
- Meanwhile, CR lawyers continue to win in court against states that mistreat children in their care. In the last few weeks a judge in Iowa ordered sweeping reforms to stop abuses of boys in detention and a federal ruling in Georgia supported the rights of youth in in county jail to receive special education services.
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