BY BETH DEDMAN
Since New York State went on “pause” March 22, child advocates and social workers have been straining to provide the needs of families within the foster care system remotely.
CASA-NYC, or Court Appointed Special Advocates of New York City, is a nonprofit that supports children and youth in foster care, as well as their parents and caretakers. They work not only with the children, but also with foster families, birth families and kids that have aged out of foster care.
Since all courts in Albany county closed March 18, all hearings related to foster care have been adjourned for months, which could delay family reunifications, permanency meetings and appeals of children whose needs are not being met.
“With the family courts closed, all of these cases are going to be adjourned. Which means that the court system, which is already backlogged, is going to be completely overwhelmed,” CASA Executive Director Kerry Moles said.
CASA is trying to work double-time to keep up with families and children during the crisis, particularly because of the added mental and emotional strain they are under with the shelter-in-place.
“I’m concerned that families that were in crisis in the past, who have stabilized, are going to go back into crisis,” Moles said. “We are concerned about families with mental illness, domestic violence and substance abuse, all of which will be exacerbated by the current situation.”
CASA is working to meet the needs of families that are sheltered in place, whether that means by securing groceries for people who have lost their jobs, providing phones or internet access so parents can still have visitation with their children in the foster system and finding places for displaced children to find shelter.
CASA is looking for volunteers who can commit 3-5 hours a week to help connect people in need to resources. It is a 30-hour training process that includes screening and training and they are seeking people who are fluent in multiple languages.
Donations that would benefit foster families in need include diapers, wipes, baby food and formula.
“In spite of the fact that this is a crisis the likes of which we have never seen in our child welfare system, it is very hopeful to see how everyone across the board is doing the very best they can under extremely stressful circumstances,” Moles said. “Even if people are worried about their own families and finances, they are taking the time to take care of and worry about other people’s kids. Usually when we see a crisis like this, people who are not impacted help those that are impacted. In this crisis, everyone is impacted, but people are still helping.”