The coronavirus pandemic has upended the way many of us interact with family members in other households. However, for parents with children in the foster care system and without full custody, the reality is much bleaker. For those parents, the last year has become even more tragic. They have been made to visit with their children on Zoom-like video chats.
In normal times, most parents are allowed supervised in-person visits with their children. After they went virtual, these parents are finding it nearly impossible to bond with their kids, which is essential for them to win back their custody.
Parents with Children In Foster Care Are Finding It Impossible to Bond with Their Young Kids and Worry Their Babies Will Not Remember Them and That They Will Lose Custody.
SheKnows reports that The Marshall Project has uncovered some very compelling information about foster care visits during the pandemic. The Marshall Project is a non-profit news organization that centers itself on issues of criminal justice in the US.
The outlet posted questions on national listservs of family court lawyers and received many responses, overwhelmingly negative, from advocates for parents and children. While non-pandemic visits would have allowed hugging, physical interaction, playing, and, in the case of newborns, breastfeeding, these parents and kids have had to communicate with a video screen between them and their parent.
If any of your children have been involved in remote learning at any point over the last year, you know how difficult the virtual world can be to navigate for children.
“It’s just impossible to bond with her over the screen. Ever since, I’ve been asking basically, ‘Can I hold my daughter?’” a mother whose baby has been in foster care since she was born, shared with The Marshall Project. “It is making me start to doubt my self-worth as a mother.”
The mother, who is a community college student who is working hard to get her life on track, said that she feels like her baby has began to bond with her foster mother and not her ever since the visits switched to virtual.
“Babies and toddlers already have a hard time sitting still, lawyers and parents said, and on video calls, they are easily distracted,” shared The Marshall Project of the feedback that it obtained. “The children are often so young they can’t even grasp that the person on the screen is their parent.”
The responses from advocates included anecdotes of parents trying hard to get their child’s attention on the calls. Some parents resorted to using noisemakers to direct their child to the screen on which they appeared. Heartbreaking.
“The science is clear that touch and smell are crucial for parent-child bonding,” The Marshall Project reported. “Babies can lose their mental image of their parents within weeks of being separated, which stalls brain development, according to pediatricians and child social workers.”
“A pretend hug over video, research shows, is essentially unrecognizable as a hug to an infant.”
Aside from negatively impacting the bond between a child and a parent, not bonding also can harm the chances of families being reunited and ever getting custody.
“Judges look for evidence of bonding when deciding whether to reunify families,” The Marshall Project explained. “If parents can’t persuade the judge that they have connected with their kids over Zoom, their chances of getting their child back fade.”
Thankfully, the in-person visit restrictions have begun to be lifted. However, most of the individuals with children in foster care are also essential workers, use public transportation, and live in households with large families. All of these factors make it difficult for these parents to meet quarantine requirements they must meet to see their kids in person.
“We may have a generation of children who could not reconnect with their parents because of this pandemic,” Judge Aurora Martinez Jones a family court judge in Texas said. While there is no available data about this being the case, it’s a reasonable expectation if judges across the country do not see these parents trying their hardest in these very trying times.
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