Foster Care Workers Fear Children Isolated By the Coronavirus Are More at Risk

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Most home visits by case managers are now being done over the internet in keeping with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s order that state agencies limit face-to-face contact.

Most home visits by case managers are now being done over the internet in keeping with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s order that state agencies limit face-to-face contact. (Chris Urso/Tampa Bay Times)

March 30, 2020

TAMPA — Eyes on the child is a bedrock principle for foster care workers who routinely go into troubled homes to see that children are safe.

But in the midst of the coronavirus, the safety of Florida’s most at-risk children is often being assessed through computer screens as agencies comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order limiting face-to-face contact for state agencies.

Case managers are using Skype and other video-conferencing software to comply with state law that requires them to lay eyes on children in their care every 30 days. Guardian ad Litem workers and volunteers, who advocate for the children in foster care, have also limited face-to-face visits.

“It does take out a level of comfort — it’s almost like you’re working blind,” said Tabitha Lambert, circuit director for the Guardian Ad Litem program in Hillsborough County.

The main exception is for child protective investigators who are still being asked to go into homes to look into reports of abuse and neglect. In Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, sheriff’s offices have equipped the investigators, who are trained civilians, with gloves and hand sanitizer.

“They have been advised to limit their time in the homes, use gloves, and try not to touch anything,” said Maj. Christi Esquinaldo, who heads up the Child Protective Investigative Division in the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office.

The pandemic has affected virtually every part of Florida’s child welfare system.

Continue reading on Tampa Bay Times.

 


Christopher O'Donnell, Staff Writer, Tampa Bay Times

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