July 27, 2020
Thoughts from our Executive Director, Natalie Thornton:
All over the world, the pandemic has affected everyone. As humans, it is natural and easy to mostly think about how the pandemic has affected you. Some people have contracted Coronavirus, however; the vast majority of us have not, or if you have, it has been minor symptoms. Therefore, you may think, why do we have to make such a big deal out of this?
Our media and government have done a fairly good job of reminding us that our elderly and immunocompromised individuals are the most prone to a serious, more life-threatening case. However, the vast majority of Texans do not realize how much this has affected another group of the vulnerable: our foster children. Did you know that since March 25th Gov. Abbott has suspended in person parent/child visits? They can visit virtually, via skype, zoom, telephone, etc., however, foster children cannot actually be in the company of their parents; that is, parents who are currently working a plan successfully to be reunited with their children. In Texas, some courts have granted some face to face visit waivers, others have not. To put it plainly, there are thousands of Texas children who are currently not being allowed to physically see their parents, since signing of the executive order on March 25th. Come to think of it, March 25th is my birthday. I feel like that day was forever ago, long enough that I can’t even remember how I celebrated the occasion.
Furthermore, it is not just about kids or parents missing out on fun times, it is proven that physical contact fosters bonding, and if that diminishes, it can cause emotionally harm and psychological damage to children. It would not surprise me that the study of emotional attachment is the most common studied topic regarding the foster care system, and every study I have ever read points to this attachment truth. Don’t catch yourself thinking, a Zoom or Skype visit is not so bad. They can still bond. Have you ever tried to have a meaningful, bonding experience with a 2-year-old on Skype? I have not. However, I figure there would be insurmountable challenges to bonding with a younger child.
Not as the CASA Executive Director, but wearing my hat as a Texas individual, I am very disturbed by this executive order. I honestly think, for lack of a better term, it is “bull’. If children in Texas can go to Wal-Mart, play little league, go to restaurants, then why can’t they see their parents? I understand that there are risks, however, those risks can be mitigated. When I make decisions on what is morally and ethically appropriate during these times, I subconsciously play out a risk vs reward. The reward to me for a child to see and bond with his or her parent is a much greater reward than for a child to go to a grocery store. Even though I feel this way, it really doesn’t matter because I cannot change it. I have not been afforded the liberty to make the decisions for the State of Texas. However, it is my opinion, and I am using this platform to share it.
Additionally, foster children who live in Residential Treatment Centers (RTCs) are most likely having a terrible summer. These children live in these facilities, and they basically cannot go anywhere, like anywhere, at all. The children are basically stuck in these buildings, cooped up all day. Every. Single. Day. Ironically, even without hardly venturing out of the front doors, Coronavirus has plagued these facilities and countless children are infected.
Statistically, during times like this, the vulnerable suffer the most, and as you can see, this is a true for our foster children. Any nation can treat their powerful and affluent great, but I hope and pray that this is what makes America a great nation: that we do not turn a blind eye to the plight and unfortunate situation of our vulnerable foster children.
I challenge you, for the next few days, when you think of the pandemic, try to think of it from the perspective of a child or a parent who have not seen each other in months. Think about how your actions affect them, not you. When you are getting out of your car at the store, and you look down in the passenger seat and see your mask, put your mask on. When you are deciding whether to embrace your friend, restrain yourself. When you are walking by the sink, wash your hands. I could go on and on about our daily public health decisions. These children deserve our dedication by taking this pandemic seriously and making the right choices. My heart breaks for them, your heart probably breaks for them; but more importantly, your actions should show it.