Kittitas County's foster care survives through the COVID-19 pandemic

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Being a foster parent means helping kids and being a family for them when they need one. The Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) has been working to help foster families through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debra Johnson, communications director for DCYF said foster care in Kittitas County has not been as affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as others because of the relatively low number of cases. Although there are some difficulties caused by the virus.

“Kittitas County has not had as many as those challenges as the overall foster care system,” Debra Johnson said. “Foster parents have expressed concern around kids visiting their (biological) parents and bringing back any type of health concerns to the household. The agency has worked with bio parents and foster children, ensuring that proper protocols are followed according to the DOH and CDC guidelines.

Biological families are sometimes allowed to visit with their children in the foster care system. They can also petition the courts to allow them custody of their children. These are common situations for the foster care program. According to Debra Johnson, the COVID pandemic has not impacted these situations.

“In Kittitas County specifically the agency has not seen any significant changes to court hearings or placements (of foster children in foster families),” Debra Johnson said.

Kristina Johnson (no relation to Debra Johnson) is the 1624 representative for region 2. This means she brings the issues from foster parents in the region to the DCYF so the agency can work through them. Region 2 contains Kittitas, Yakima, Benton, Walla Walla and Franklin counties. Kristina Johnson is a foster parent herself, currently living with her adopted daughter and a newborn.

Kristina Johnson said the pandemic has made it difficult for foster families to visit with their biological families. Many of these visits are done through Zoom meetings or other video chats. Her newborn foster child has been using Zoom to meet with her family.

“It’s really hard to do the Zoom visits, and I am just speaking for other foster families, especially if you have multiple children in multiple cases,” Kristina Johnson said. “Families have to do two to three Zooms per kid/case… there’s just an extra level of stress for foster parents that typical families don’t have. In typical families your kid doesn’t have to leave and go somewhere to visit.”

The placement of kids in foster families doesn’t seem to have been impacted too harshly by the pandemic. Kritina Johnson said there is some concern that a new child might be infected with the virus, but she is still taking them in.

“Foster parents are amazing to continue to do this and work through the extra stress (of the pandemic),” Kristina Johnson said. “Having to do visits and school and all that, because they (parents) don’t have to. None of us have to do this, but we choose to and I think that is amazing.”