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COVID-19 is Not Slowing Down Foster Care, Adoption Services in Adams County, CO

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COVID-19 is Not Slowing Down Foster Care, Adoption Services in Adams County, CO
Pictured: Michelle Champagne. Member-provided photo.

As front-line child protection case workers in Adams County, Colorado, continue to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable members of their community, many of their co-workers are working from home and overcoming a different kind of challenge.

Case workers used to meeting clients face-to-face quickly learned to use technology to meet with clients, facilitate trainings, conduct foster care information meetings and foster parent training.

They’ve had to adapt because COVID-19 is not slowing down the need for foster homes. And Adams County foster care services are experiencing no slowdown, either.

Fortunately, the number of people signing up to become foster care families in Adams County has remained consistent. In fact, online information sessions are reaching capacity at a faster rate than before the pandemic.

“Before the outbreak, we typically had 20 to 30 people sign up for an in-person information session. Since moving everything online, there hasn’t been a decrease in the numbers at all,” explained Michelle Champagne, Adams County’s sole foster parent recruiter, and a member of AFSCME Council 18. “Actually, registration for our next class is almost full, with 3½ weeks still left to recruit.”

Champagne attributes the surprising success to the fact that families are spending more time at home due to current stay-at-home orders. Because people are active on social media and tuning into virtual information sessions, Champagne is able to reach a wider audience of prospective families online.

Pictured: Heather Burke. Member-provided photo.

Though the consistent success in recruitment is cause for celebration, the current pandemic has made the work of securing foster care families even more necessary.

“Once stay-at-home orders are lifted, we’re going to see a spike in the number of reports of child abuse. For example, when families struggle financially, which is currently the case for many people, tensions rise and that could lead to more instances of violence in the home,” Champagne said. “A few months from now, we’re predicting the need for more foster homes will be greater because of what was done to children at home during this time.”

Heather Burke, who is tasked with processing adoptive homes for children in Adams County, believes that the need to protect children doesn’t just end with the pandemic.

“After all of this is over, I hope more families would be willing to take in children any day,” said Burke, who’s also a member of AFSCME Council 18.

Burke reports that about 80% of adoptive families come from the foster care families that Champagne recruits. And although the pandemic has not reduced adoption numbers, Burke explained that it does shine a light on the current state of resources in child welfare.

“We’re recognizing a lot of barriers that are affecting our families. Sometimes it’s not a case of child abuse or neglect, but rather a struggle to get basic needs met,” Burke explained. “We need more funding to help keep families together. Dollars can buy diapers and bring formula in and help us better serve families.”

Both Champagne and Burke share a passion for Adams County’s most vulnerable children and remain committed to their work despite some of the difficulties that come with their jobs.

“I believe child welfare is my calling, but it is hard and I’ve been doing this work for 20 years,” said Champagne. “People ask me how I could do it, and I say, ‘These children are victims of child abuse and neglect. How can I not?’”

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