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WAAY31 spoke with a Shoals foster parent and social worker about all the curve balls the coronavirus pandemic is throwing foster kids and families.
Stacy Justice, currently has five foster kids, she told WAAY31 one of the biggest hurdles has been schools moving online and social workers now doing video chat interviews with kids rather than coming to foster families homes.
"We're trying to keep them busy but at the same time keep them safe and keep them away from the public and anywhere where they might catch something," said Justice.
Justice said they live in a rural area of the Shoals so when the kids aren't doing school work they go on bike rides or hikes. She said the kids have been asking questions about the coronavirus and all the changes.
"I had to take one child for a check up this morning and he asked why are they wearing those scary masks and I had to explain that the masks were for him to keep from getting germs," said Justice.
Justice said normally foster kids get to see their families once a week but with the coronavirus that's stopped.
"For these parents and kids not being able to touch their family but just being able to facetime them that helps but it's not the same so that's probably been the hardest aspect for the kids and the families," said Justice
Justice told WAAY31 logistically having 5 foster kids and her family does put a strain when they go grocery shopping because of all the limits various stores have on soups, milk, and other items. For instance, you can only buy two cans of soup at some stores or one roll of toilet paper per family. Justice said to make a grocery run sometimes she has to go to multiple stores to get everything.
Brittany Pruett, is a social worker for DHR in Lauderdale County, she said in extreme cases they are still doing some visits in person, but most of her visits are over video chat.
"I think in someways the kids kind of like it more because they are used so the technology more," said Pruett.
Pruett said when they do in person visits they are social distancing and wearing protective gear.
"We are using gloves, were using masks, were making sure to sanitize everything and stay on top of the safety precautions that the CDC has laid out for us," said Pruett.
WAAY31 asked the Alabama Department of Human Resources about the policies they've changed and how employees are working during this pandemic.
The department said, "The Department of Human Resources has dedicated and experienced county directors who lead work in each county with guidance and support of the State Department of Human Resources. We are confident that they are doing their very best to ensure needs of our staff are being met. DHR must continue to operate federally mandated programs. DHR staff deliver essential services to children, families and vulnerable adults; DHR is part of the essential critical infrastructure of our state. Also, these workers are needed more by the citizens of Alabama in this unprecedented time. The State Department has provided all county offices with funds to enable them to secure needed products to help keep staff safe. Counties have been instructed and encouraged to educate staff on the necessary hygiene habits to include hand sanitizing, office cleaning and proper social distancing as per ADPH. We have also changed and suspended some policies, as allowed by federal regulations, to better protect our staff and clients. Additionally, DHR provides Crisis Debriefing that employees can access if needed. Any employee can self-refer to the state’s Employee Assistance Program. Also, an employee can be referred to this program by a supervisor. Various levels of management within the agency are continuously assessing staff needs and providing support to meet those needs. Additionally, leave is available and can be requested by DHR staff."