Amid the pandemic there’s growing concern for our local foster kids — from a massive shortage with child advocates and money to the safety of our children.
Child Advocates is a local nonprofit that trains everyday people to advocate for the best interests of foster children in Harris County. They are a voice for them in court and a guide to safe environments where they can thrive. The advocates check on the children monthly, but with the social distancing guidelines, things are different.
“With everything going on with COVID 19, we want to ensure that none of these kids are falling through the cracks, and even though we are not able to do the face-to-face visits that we are normally able to do, we are doing virtual visits. Every week advocates are doing virtual visits with the kids which we are utilizing platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Facetime to be able to complete these visits," said Allyson Buckner, the advocacy coordinator for Child Advocates.
Out of the 1,000 foster children in Harris County, the shortage of advocates leaves the nonprofit only able to help half of that amount. Another issue: two of the organization's biggest fundraisers had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. They collectively bring in about $750,000 for Child Advocates.
The safety of the children, and children in need who are not yet discovered by the system, is also a concern.
“With children not going to school right now, a lot of times that’s their safety. There’s going to be a gap now between what is being reported and what is actually happening. We also know that unfortunately, families are just trying to make their ends meet and can’t always stay home. We are scared we are going to see more neglectful supervision cases. Children being left alone when they shouldn’t,” said Ashley Zustovich with Child Advocates.
A solution is to have more advocates. Zustovich says this volunteer job can be done from the comfort of your home.
Here are the requirements:
- Attend a (virtual) orientation
- Go through 30-hours of training (virtually) across 2 weeks
- Must be 21 years old
- Go through an interview process
- CPS Background Check
“It’s a very rewarding volunteer job that we ask people in our community to step up and do,” said Zustovich.
To find out how you can donate or become an advocate, visit www.childadvocates.org