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Who We Are
What was the effect of COVID 19 on your programs and the people you specifically serve?
Our adoptive families immediately lost the face to face support of their FC case managers, LAS adoptive workers, in-home care specialists and school-based providers.
Within 30 days many of our families experienced an unexpected loss in income and some faced temporary unemployment.
Some parents in families with adoptive placements or temporary placement of unmatched children had to make tough decisions to quit their jobs to stay home with the children and readily do so to ensure the kids were safe as they faced al the uncertainties and changes COVID brought.
Daycares and schools closed and parents of young children needed to find a way to provide 24/7 care for the children in their own homes while balancing work responsibilities. Many of their natural supports (grandparents, friends, other family members) were unable to interact to support the families in person.
LAS serves over ¼ of the 296 unmatched children currently available for adoption statewide. Our adoption specialists serving this population had to put on hold Meet and Greet events and face to face introductions and visits with prospective adoptive families.
A portion of the unmatched youth are placed in temporary residential facilities that were quickly closed to any physical outside contact. Adoption youth in these centers do not have identified parents or caregivers.
Courts shut down and for weeks were only able to manage priority hearing for pressing safety needs, like child removals. The adoption process is heavily reliant on legal functions. Courts refused to even receive placement and finalization packet requests, so official placement for some children and finalizations for children at the very end of the adoption process were put on hold. Permanency of the children in a Forever Home was delayed. Some courts that were willing to accept packets still needed legal signatures that we could only obtain in person or had to wait days for snail mail to obtain.
How did LAS react/What did LAS do to adjust?
Within a week of the Governor’s first Stay At Home executive order, LAS moved our entire workforce to remote work.
Within short order we began to contact the relatives and families in process of adopting over 300 of our LAS children.
Safety was of course paramount. Adoption specialists reached out to every family and child on their caseload to determine what they needed in this time.
We assisted families to navigate ways to access technology and utilize virtual platforms to connect to providers and keep the kids and families connected to supports. Families without adequate technology for virtual were connected to resources to get a laptop or tablet and provided information on accessing free internet services. LAS provided tablets to many families in need to ensure they were able to connect.
Our adoption staff quickly created a resource file and our events coordinator shifted to seeking and recording all available resources in the counties we serve so our families in need had immediate, local, community resources to connect with.
Unmatched adoption specialists connected virtually with our LAS youth in residential settings to find ways to help these children feel safe in the absence of identified caregivers or parents. Many reported experiencing increased anxiety as COVID continued week after to week to upset their norms. LAS looked for items and activities we could obtain from donors or purchase ourselves to provide some stress relief for these youth.
LAS offered 3
party payment supports to families with adoptive placements that experienced sudden loss in income.
LAS and MDHHS advocated alongside MDHHS to implore SCAO and the local courts to accept and process adoption packets and schedule virtual hearings so finalizations could take place.
LAS hired an additional Family Worker specialist. Three of these workers statewide have been working on a project to launch virtual orientations and trainings for recruited adoptive families and are finding ways to innovate the Meet and Greet process for introductions to unmatched children. The LAS team is also offering virtual support groups. Adoptive parents report, since they are home, some of these activities are easier to fit into their busy schedules.
To ensure services were continuing for clients in need, our LAS contractual behavioral health therapist was able to move all of her family and child therapy sessions from face to face to a telehealth virtual format.