Defeat? No way! Adoption and foster care proceed despite pandemic

It’s been a tough year for everyone. But imagine, during this pandemic, trying to find families for thousands of children and youths across the nation without a safe, permanent place to live.

That task seems unsurmountable; I can tell you it’s not.

As a family support specialist with Diakon Adoption & Foster Care, I know it’s possible to bring permanence to the lives of waiting children despite the added challenges of COVID-19—because I see it happening.

Through foster care, foster-to-adopt (often called legal-risk placements) and special needs and domestic adoption, we continue to find forever families for children and youths.

There are still crucial trainings being held to prepare and support adoptive families. They’re just taking place digitally. However, we still meet with our foster families in-person whenever that is safe, but use video chats to do so as necessary.

And there are still “parades” and celebrations when an adoption becomes official. There’s just more distance between us and our huge smiles are behind masks.

We even have a book club that meets, virtually, every other week!

Working with families has been challenging during the pandemic, no doubt. In the beginning, there were a few weeks when everything came to a complete stop. Uncertainty, for everyone, was probably the biggest hurdle. Court hearings and adoptions couldn’t take place the same way. But my coworkers and I, and all the caseworkers, continued to reach out twice a week to make sure families were healthy, safe and understood they weren’t alone. In fact, we were deemed essential employees.

There were, of course, some bittersweet moments. The shutdown created a backlog in court hearings and families were frustrated trying to get beyond that. Yet we also were fortunate to have attorneys and judges open their practices to make sure kids could still find permanency.

Even through one of the toughest times, we were able to come together as an agency and figure out how to support families. In-person duties switched to video. Staff meetings continued, digitally and by phone. Most important, we were able to let the children and families know: “We’re still here. We’re not going to leave.”

With continuous COVID-19 updates, PPE supply distribution and our supervisors constantly touching base to make sure we felt safe and healthy, we did not lose any families. We successfully navigated it all—and continue to do so.

In fact, I recently had the pleasure of helping two women, both single, adopt siblings. Through video adoptions, the siblings celebrated their forever families with a virtual party. They now often talk to each other through video and their connection has led to a new and supportive friendship between the two new mothers!

Megan Miller, Family Support Specialist Diakon Adoption & Foster Care