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CINCINNATI - The coronavirus pandemic is changing the face of social services, including foster care. In some parts of the country, agencies are struggling to find new people willing to take children into their homes during this time of uncertainty.
Local foster care agencies said the need for new parents hasn’t slowed down, and more people in Cincinnati are stepping up to help. Some necessary practices have changed dramatically, and foster parents are having to adapt.
Weston and Natalie Hermans have been fostering children for a little over five years.
“It’s not easy, but there’s a lot of good stuff that comes from it. You learn and grow a lot through it as well,” Weston Hermans said.
The Hermans have four biological kids and two foster children.
“We have had seven placements in our home,” Natalie Hermans said. “Five of them have reunited with a family member.”
Throughout the years, the Hermans, like many foster parents, have grown used to change.
“The good, by far, outweighs the bad,” Natalie Hermans said.
But nothing compares to the changes brought on by COVID-19.
“That is something that is new territory for everyone involved,” Natalie Hermans said.
Natalie is involved in Beech Acres’ ambassador and mentoring programs, which creates a support system for foster parents.
“There are a lot of just changes that affect the foster family, affect the child, but also the biological parents,” Natalie Hermans said. “They’re not getting to see or hug their kid.”
Parental visits and therapy sessions usually done in person now take place virtually.
“It affects everything for the foster child,” Natalie Hermans said. “It affects the legal aspect of it, court hearings, all of that that has to do with their case.”
Ricka’ Berry, vice president of child welfare at Beech Acres, said changes are being made at every level due to the fears of coronavirus infection.
“Business definitely is not as usual, but for our work we are just being able to be available to people and being able to kind of continue on with serving kids and families,” Berry said.
The changes were put into place to keep parents and children safe.
“We have some foster parents that are older and so making sure that we’re mindful of checking our own temperature before we go into a foster home, making sure that our staff doesn’t exhibit any symptoms,” Berry said.
The Hermans said if you’re healthy, stable and thinking about fostering, it’s always a good time to change a life.
“Just somebody who can love a child, because honestly, if you can love them, that’s the most important thing,” Natalie Herman said.
For those who want to help but aren’t ready to commit to being a foster parent, foster agencies are always looking for hygiene products and people willing and able to provide respite care.