RICHMOND, Va - Vulnerable children in Virginia could become “secondary victims” of the community response to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to foster care advocates. A local non-profit is now organizing a “Foster Care Survival Kit” drive to help foster families and children through uncertain times.
Virginia’s Kid Belong is partnering with several local faith groups to collect new toys, books, snacks, and games for foster families.
“We pictured these foster families who are at home with kids from hard places who thrive on routine and security and structure, and just though, if we can make them feel seen, appreciated and loved, and make these kids feel seen, appreciated, and loved, all the better,” said Janet Kelly, VKB’s President.
Kelly said that after weeks or months of social distancing and family isolation, the number of kids who enter the foster care system could increase.
“Anytime kids are home with emotional stressed and financially strapped parents, unfortunately we can expect an increase of child abuse and neglect investigations. We might not hear about them until September, when school starts back,” said Kelly, who added teachers are the main reporters of child abuse and neglect
On the flip side, the extra pressure placed on Virginia's 4,000 foster families could cause some to drop out of the program. Estimates show that half of all foster families quit within one year, VKB said.
In order to lift up families and children already in the foster care system, anyone who wants to help assemble “survival kits” can purchase items online or drop them off in person at Uturn Sports Academy.
“You know, we have a 160,000 square foot building, so with social distancing, all the things that have been mandated by the Governor and by the CDC, we can still abide by those things because our building is huge,” said Khiry Cooper, with Uturn Sports. “I know it’s not much, but hopefully it sheds light on some people and helps people out.”
Every item will be disinfected prior to deliver, organizers said. In-person drop off are accepted Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm. Uturn Sports Academy is located at 2101 Maywill Street, Richmond, Virginia.
The facility is closed because of COVID-19, but Cooper said his staff will be on hand during those hours to accept donations.
The Richmond community will serve as a launching point for the program, but organizers hope the program grows large enough to reach families statewide.
Kelly calls foster parents “invisible heroes,” showing care and compassion for children who have experienced unimaginably difficult circumstances through no fault of their own. The hope is that the survival kits shower love on foster families throughout Virginia.
“As a foster parent, now I don’t feel so alone because I feel seen and appreciated, and at the end of the day, that’s all anyone wants, to feel seen and appreciated,” Kelly said.