Four weeks ago, life changed dramatically. Remote work, educating children at home, and minimal contact with the world outside our homes have become the new normal. This week, I got to thinking about how closely the last 4 weeks of life in America parallel the experiences of children in our foster care system.
The week of March 9th seemed a normal week. But by the following Monday, the world was a different place. Schools were out, Courts were canceled, and states of emergency were issued all around us. We were told to stay home and socially distance. We do not understand the reasons but do it for our individual and collective best interest.
How long this will last? Some say the end of April, some say May, still others say maybe by the end of June. Social media is overflowing with commentary on how the days have run together and become indistinguishable. Other posts indicate how March 2020 felt long enough to constitute its own decade.
To understand the experience of a child in care, we must look at the world through the eyes of a child and our collective experience over the last 4 weeks helps us do that. Before mid-March, how many times have you made an appointment for a month out because its not that long? How many times have we looked back on the past three months and thought they flew by? What about now?
Do you remember being a child and waiting for Christmas? For me, the weeks after Thanksgiving dragged on and Christmas seemed like an eternity away. Adults around me would talk about how little time there was and I wondered if we were living in the same universe.
In Bibb, Crawford, and Peach counties today there are 287 foster children who have been in care for an average of 35.5 months. Can you imagine being in our present state for another 3 years?
When I hear government and public health officials tell us that we need to stay at home for another 2 weeks, I think about a child’s case being continued for two weeks. When I hear public health officials opine that distancing could drag on through the summer, I think about children who will have to wait another six months for a hearing.
CASAs bring urgency to every case and help ensure that children move through the system in a safe and timely manner. As we enter into week 5 of social distancing, would you ponder with me how you can make a difference in the life of just one child?
-Susanna Patterson, Executive Director