ORLANDO, Fla. — The Coronavirus outbreak is having an escalating impact on foster care in Florida. Child welfare agencies are adapting the way they train and recruit foster families.
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Glen Casel is the CEO of Embrace Families, the lead foster care agency for Central Florida.
“Most of the work that we do and our network of providers is delivered in the homes of local Central Florida families, and so we have had to very quickly adapt to the reality that that is not something we should be doing all day,” he said.
Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, case managers must continue their work to protect children. Now, that includes remote social work and virtual visits.
“If we have a safety concern we will still do an in-home visit," Casel elaborated. "We have just adapted the way that we deliver those visits. So they may be out front or it may be that we use the PPEs to protect not only our staff, but also the family that we are visiting.”
Another serious concern for Embrace Families is child abuse going unnoticed.
“Our primary callers to the abuse hotline are teachers and health care professionals. Well those two industries look a little different today and so we’ve actually seen a decrease in calls, but that doesn’t lower my concern,” he said.
The COVID-19 outbreak is straining the system statewide. Kids Central Inc. says they have a critical need for new foster homes in Sumter and Citrus counties.
“Although America is changing right now we will always have a need for foster families,” said Sharon Gibbs, Kids Central Inc. Director of Out of Home Care.
Instead of doing in-home and classroom training to prepare families to foster a child, those lessons are being taught online.