AUSTIN, Texas — While many businesses and organizations across Central Texas have come to a standstill, the foster care system cannot. Leaders within the system said this is still a great time for anyone interested in helping children in foster care to get involved.
One of the biggest needs for children are families to support them, according to Chelsy Alexander, the director of Foster Community, a nonprofit aimed to increase diversity and the number of foster families in foster care.
Typically, the organization, which partners with the Department of Family and Protective Services, holds monthly informational sessions. Families can learn about the process of getting involved, whether that is through adopting, fostering, or for those not ready to commit to taking care of a child, volunteering is another helpful alternative.
About 10 to 30 people attend each session, Alexander said.
However, due to the global crisis, these informational sessions shifted online on Thursday.
According to Alexander, these sessions are instrumental in getting families licensed to foster, but worries the coronavirus will cause participation to drop.
"What this is going to do is impact, maybe not everything right at this moment, but in a couple of months we might see some drop off because we haven’t been able to get out and do the recruitment we have been able to do in the past," Alexander said.
In-person meetings typically allow interested parents to talk to certified placement agencies about the process.
While foster care professionals are protecting children and employees from being exposed to the coronavirus, Alexander hopes people will step up by learning more now, in order to prepare them for the future.
"We really feel like it opens the doors to families to really get a good understanding of what they are going to do," Alexander said. "It sets the tone for them to know we are coming into this not just working with kids, but also working to help families and bring families back together."
The impact on young adults aging out
When kids turn 18 and age out of the foster care system, they may work towards being stable and independent.
The program currently supports 30 people who are older than 18 years old in the area, in addition to the youth under 18 years old who also joined the program, according to Erin Argue, the director of support services for Partnerships for Children.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Argue said some of these aged-out youth who were living fully independent lost their jobs and source of income.
“They are really impacted by the inability to pay rent and have an income coming in and get their groceries and try to really just live," Argue said.
PFC is providing support to these individuals and ensuring they have food through grocery and meal deliveries.
However, as a grant and community-funded nonprofit, Argue said they have seen a decrease in donations right now.
This also takes a toll on the supplies in PFC's Rainbow Room, a 24/7 resource center located in the CPS offices where caseworkers can come to gather essential items for children who are in crisis.
“We want to make sure we can be that support system for them during this time and their mentors can virtually continue to be that support system," Argue said.
To answer any questions/concerns, please reach out to leaders with PFC by calling 512-834-4756 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.