The impact of COVID-19 on foster care in the US

If you embark on a career in social work, you will be dedicating your working life to helping people in difficult situations improve their wellbeing and opportunities in some way. Vacancies arise across all sectors, such as correctional facilities and hospitals, and you can workwith seniors, victims of abuse, or children.

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people across societyand has had a mixed impact, especially on the more vulnerable members of our society, including those within the foster system.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), approximately 430,000 children were living in foster care – that is in the custody of a child protective services agency – in the US in 2020. Because of a mix of social and contextual factors, children in foster care are at high risk for acute diseases and chronic health conditions, have high rates of developmental delay and learning disabilities, and experience frequent school disruptions due to changing residences and caregivers.

Restrictions and measures differed across the country, and the full impact of COVID-19 on the system will not be properly known for some time. However, existing challenges were exacerbated by the disruption to education, healthcare and social services caused by the pandemic. As well as this, child welfare authorities and foster parents were expected to navigate new systems and additional responsibilities. For example, HHS encouraged providers to be aware of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and the Department of Labor, implementing strategies such as allowing caseworkers to conduct visits using video conferencing and allowing federal funding to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) and cellphones.

A career in social work

If you have decided to pursuea career in social work, which will enable you to help vulnerable children such as those within the foster system, then identifying the right course for you is key.

An online degree is ideal for those who want the flexibility of deciding whether to study full-time or part-timeand work around existing work and family commitments. The Spalding MSW program, which is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), has the added benefit of free placement services to help you secure local field opportunities. Thismeans that you can talk to an expert about what direction you want to go in, and if it is within the area of helping vulnerable children, for example, identify which roles would enable you to further your experience in that field.

However, this versatile degree will prepare you for a variety of roles within social services, so you may be undecided on your specialty and want the opportunity to try different placements.

Whatever your decision, as aqualified social worker, you will also be expected to keep abreast of new developments, research, societal changes and certification requirements, depending on where you are employed and in which state, so it’s important to read relevant papers, websites and directives as your career progresses so that you give the best service to your clients and also feel that you are doing the best for yourself.

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