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Indiana prepares foster families to take in children impacted by COVID-19

State has more than 20,000 children already in foster care
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Posted at 2:03 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 20:25:40-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Child Services is getting ready for a surge of COVID-19 and children displaced by the virus.

As parents get sick, Hoosier children have to go somewhere, and DCS and private agencies want to be ready.

Dave Hancock and his wife have been Indiana foster parents six years, and currently have two boys, ages 1 and 3.

The Hancocks are just one of thousands of foster families in Indiana contacted by DCS to find out if they could take a child who has been in contact with COVID-19 or a child who is COVID-19 positive.

“I think Indiana is preparing for a possible surge and Indiana is preparing for the inevitable that comes with this type of situation,” Hancock said.

Hancock had to say no because his wife has asthma and one of their foster sons has a heart condition.

"It was hard to say no we couldn't accept a child with that when we strive to have an open and loving home, but you can't take care of other people when you can't take care of yourselves," Hancock said.

In Indiana, 50% of the foster children are in DCS homes and the other 50% are in homes with organizations and private agencies like the Villages, the state’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency, serving more than 3,000 children and their families every single day.

“We’re trying to be really proactive,” said Sharon Pierce, CEO and President of the Villages. “We are surveying our foster families, assessing who has a risk factor, being over 60 or having respiratory conditions that might make them more susceptible and eliminating those families.”

The Villages is also doing training and informational sessions via Zoom for people interested in fostering.

"We are using this time to try to build the capacity we feel the Villages and Indiana is going to need to protect our children and keep them loved and nurtured during this time that is so stressful," said Pierce.

The state’s Joint Information Center and DCS released a statement to RTV6: “Everyone has a role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. To ensure the safety of Hoosier children, DCS needs to understand the capability of the foster parent community to house children who potentially have been exposed to the virus. We want to have meaningful conversations with foster parents about their own risk factors and give everyone the opportunity to discuss as a family what is best for them.”

Here's some information on becoming a foster parent.

DCS recommends:

  • Creating a family safety plan
  • Plan for who will help you if someone in your family gets sick
  • Identify who can help with childcare, making meals and dispensing medication
  • Keep the information with you and share with family members
  • Designate a safe space including a separate bathroom to quarantine a sick family member
  • Make a contact list of local contact organizations before you need it
  • Get to know your neighbors virtually