AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: The attached video is about a separate story over the foster care system.
As the coronavirus spreads in Central Texas, children in the foster care system need more support.
Mandatory quarantines are forcing people to stay inside, isolated from others. According to Emily Rudenick LeBlanc, the chief program officer for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Travis County, this could increase fear and anxiety in these children.
"Increased contact is important because, right now, we're experiencing a collective trauma. Like the children we serve, this crisis is only going to exacerbate those effects and result in more complex trauma," Rudenick LeBlanc said.
CASA advocates and provides support for children in the foster care system.
Currently, 40% of the children who CASA of Travis County serves live with relatives, many of whom are grandparents at a much higher risk for COVID-19.
Additionally, Rudenick LeBlanc worries about an increase in abuse and neglect cases due to the heightened emotional and physical stress this virus puts on families.
"Even the ways families are able to normally cope with stress aren’t accessible right now," Rudenick Leblanc said. "Children can’t be sent to a babysitter to give parents some respite. Someone experiencing domestic violence can’t easily flee to a shelter. People are stuck in one place with limited resources, and that will lead to people getting hurt.”
Finally, social distancing practices limit interactions children can have with their biological parents as they try to reunite and even with their advocate.
"It’s vital that we establish a routine in this strange new space kids find themselves in, so that our connection with them and presence in their life is predictable and consistent," Rudenick LeBlanc added.
For these reasons, CASA moved from monthly in-person visits to weekly video chats to stay connected with the children they serve.
However, CASA is calling on the community to help.
Currently, CASA reports 548 children in the Travis County child welfare system do not have a dedicated CASA volunteer.
"They do not have the same focus and consistent adult presence as the children who have their volunteer checking in on them," according to CASA.
The nonprofit is currently recruiting more volunteers who can help support these children during this crisis.
The recruitment, screening and training process was moved online in order to continue to expand their volunteer roster.
The next Zoom information session is Saturday, April 4, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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