The Unseen Pandemic:
The Covid-19 pandemic shook the human race to its core, with the virus claiming 675 thousand American lives, the lasting impact of the coronavirus will reverberate for decades to come. But whilst the world focused on the coronavirus pandemic, an unspoken pandemic began dictating the future of foster youth. As the novel flu intensified across the country, foster children were ravaged by the virus, as basic services and support were suspended for months on end. Financial, emotional, educational, social, and mental health services that these youngsters rely on were put on hold, making a perilous situation less favorable. Chicago saw a 33% increase in the number of children entering the foster care system. California saw a decrease in reports of child abuse- a somber reminder of what can happen when watchful and helpful eyes are no longer present.
Foster youth's experienced a heavy emotional burden on their mental health; deprived of contact with families or siblings, feeling devoid of any sense of emotional support. This resulted in heightened anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. There was a 24% increase in mental health-related emergencies for children aged five to eleven, and a 31% increase among youth ages twelve to seventeen, a CDC report concluded.
As we quickly realized, the pandemic would be a mainstay in our lives, prolonging foster care for thousands in the process. A system intended to be a temporary one has become ever-present in children’s lives as critical services were shuttered or limited due to the ongoing pandemic. Los Angeles felt the full brunt of the novel virus, as The AP’s analysis found at least 8,700 fewer reunifications during the early months of the pandemic, compared with the March-to-December period the year before — a decrease of 16%. Adoptions, too, dropped — by 23%. Overall, at least 22,600 fewer children left foster care compared with 2019.
As some nations begin returning to a semblance of normality (if there is such a thing after the pandemic), foster kids will see their world’s shattered, and continued being affected by the pandemic. A unified response is needed to address this urgent matter, as it will leave vulnerable foster youth in a hazardous situation, seeing no light at the end of the tunnel.