COVID-19 impacting foster care agencies in the Tx Panhandle

Updated: May. 4, 2020 at 2:14 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Executive Director of High Plains Children’s Home Drew Perkins says one of the biggest changes since the start of the Shelter-in-Place order is the significant decrease in Child Protective Service referrals.

“A large percentage of CPS referrals come from schools, and so, with the schools closed, there is actually fewer referrals coming into CPS, because those children who may be suffering from abuse have not been coming to schools," Perkins said.

According to Amarillo Area Casa, they are concerned because they know child neglect is continuing through the pandemic and just not being reported.

“There’s a lot of neglect in our area, and we know that neglect is still happening, it’s just not being reported about, so that’s an immediate thing that we saw happening," said Kelsi Vines, director of recruitment and training at Amarillo Area Casa.

Vines also says although child neglect reporting has been lowered, she is expecting an influx since the Shelter-in-Place order has been lifted, and she’s hoping there will be more volunteers ready for when that happens.

“The reporting is going to go down right now, but as soon as this Shelter-in-Place is over, and we have the community out and about again, or school is starting, expect the number of children in foster care systems to increase, and when that happens, I would rather have volunteers and foster parents waiting and ready to help with that influx of children," Vines said.

Both Perkins and Vines says as for the children already in foster care and foster parents, they’re experiencing emotional trauma as a result of COVID-19.

“It’s not the same, and I do think that this time is taking an emotional toll on those kids who are worried about their parents, and for those parents who are worried about their children that they’re separated from," Vines said.

As a result, Perkins and Vines says both organizations are doing what they can to make sure the mental health of their children and parents are a top priority.

“Their still having counseling visits whether it be tele-health or in-person," Perkins said. "If they have an in-person visit, we ask them to stay 6 to 10 feet apart, masks, and outdoors. We are doing everything within our power to make sure their mental and emotional health is being taken care of.”

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