May 8, 2020
Teens can be energetic, adventurous and at times impulsive - all reasons they need extra support as they transition into adulthood. It is also why we prioritized making extra calls to all the children we work with - especially our teens - the second we learned about COVID-19. We wanted to make sure they knew about and understood the severity of the pandemic and check in to see what additional resources we might need to advocate for so they could successfully shelter in place.
Here is just a snapshot of what we heard:
Food. Kaylynn*, a 19-year-old teen in foster care, was furloughed from Panera. She has a one-year-old baby, making the loss of income even more dangerous for her and her family. Our team immediately gave her grocery store gift cards and pointed her to additional food resources to help her manage the unexpected job loss.
Stable homes. 14-year-old Jared* was still venturing out and meeting up with his friends. His Children's Law Center lawyer warned that he could put his foster family at risk of getting sick if he left the house. Even more concerning, she explained that it could impact whether he had a place to live during and after the crisis if his foster parents became sick. He has a good relationship with his foster parents, so it was important he understood that this might mean moving to new foster parents with whom he may or may not build the same bond. On top of that, our lawyer knew just how challenging it can be to secure stable housing placements for teens - so she cautioned him to think through the ripple effects should he pick up the virus and pass it to others.
Medical and mental health support. We knew going into the pandemic that the health of our teens living in congregate care facilities was a top priority. They face greater risks of exposure, so our team of lawyers and social workers are actively weighing risks and benefits of keeping them where they currently live or moving them to a different home. For Sarah*, one teen we represent, her lawyer and social worker knew she needed to move back home and be with her family during this stressful time. They advocated for her to travel by car instead of flying her back to DC to limit her exposure and minimize any trauma that came from the trip home. They also prepared her family for their child's return, made sure they had ample resources to support her, and connected her with the right providers who could continue addressing her medical and mental health needs.
Every day we hear from more teens in need of support. We know the calls will continue to increase which is why we are so thankful for your support.
The virus may not be the greatest risk to our teens. Being displaced from yet another family, losing their connection to school and friends or managing the stress of being cooped up day after day - these threaten their wellbeing today and may impact their future chances of success. It is why we will continue reaching out to them several times a week as they continue to navigate these difficult times.
Guardian ad Litem Program Director
*Children's Law Center works hard to protect our clients' confidentiality. The children's names have been modified. All other details are true.