A week after NAFI CT Executive Director Lynn Bishop hosted an October event in which Gov. Ned Lamont and State Department of Children and Families Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes emphasized the vital role of nonprofits during the COVID-19 pandemic—especially foster families—the Governor announced $1 million in supplemental aid to support foster parents.
In her role as President of the Children’s League of Connecticut (CLOC), Bishop was joined Oct. 16 by other CLOC leaders for a roundtable discussion and press conference at Klingberg Family Centers, Inc. in New Britain.
“We thank [foster parents] from the bottom of our hearts because we know that stabilizing the lives of children is going to be what the recovery of Connecticut is going to need on the other side of this,” Commissioner Dorantes said at the press conference that included foster parent Merry Cassabria, who works with Waterford Country School, a CLOC member.
Commissioner Dorantes reinforced the message of support Oct. 23 as the Governor announced the allocation of the $1 million from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, which utilizes federal CARES Act funding.
A press release said the funding will provide supplemental aid to foster parents for the extraordinary costs associated with caring for more than 3,600 children in state care during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our foster parents do a fantastic job with children in state care,” Governor Lamont said Oct. 23, going on to reference several of the themes he discussed with CLOC leaders a week earlier. “During the pandemic, many foster parents faced additional responsibilities of caring for children, many of whom are receiving school services remotely and have been unable to access other supports. That clearly warranted an additional reimbursement in recognition of efforts that go beyond the rigorous demands we make of foster parents on a regular basis.”
“It’s very heartening to see the state come through with this greatly needed additional support for Connecticut’s wonderful, dedicated foster parents,” Bishop said.
NAFI CT has already recognized the heightened level of need foster parents are facing by giving an additional $500 to its foster parents who have supported a youth with COVID-related challenges, and $300 in added support to all other foster parents to help with the added challenges of the pandemic.
NAFI CT currently has 43 foster families, which have been helping children adjust to hybrid learning environments, deal with school closures due to possible COVID exposures, navigate medical issues, and more.
“We have provided dinner deliveries during different periods of the pandemic, as well as getting creative with virtual visits through playing games via FaceTime and apps on phones,” said NAFI CT Director of Foster Care Services Elizabeth Sitler. “Therapy appointments and bio-family visits have been virtual and the responsibility of the foster parent, so they are now teachers, IT specialists, mediators for visits and the list keeps growing!”
“We ask so much of our foster families as they love, nurture and care for our children during such a critical time in their lives,” Commissioner Dorantes said in the Governor’s press release. “This support also extends to the connections foster parents make with the families of the children placed into their homes – leading towards quicker and successful reunification. During the last calendar year, over 782 children were successfully reunified with their parents. But during the pandemic, foster parents did even more – increased virtual visits with the children’s families, supporting remote learning, which could include children placed from multiple districts with varying schedules and bringing children into their home without knowing their health status. Foster families are heroes just like other essential workers we cannot do without.”
These efforts are also extended to therapeutic foster care providers who often have children with complex behavioral needs placed into their families, the press release noted.
Commissioner Dorantes made the Oct. 23 announcement about the supplemental aid at the annual conference of the Connecticut Alliance of Foster and Adoptive Families.
In September, the Governor’s press release noted, DCF received $1.1 million in Adoption Incentive federal grant dollars for success in finalizing 663 adoptions for children from foster care. This funding is being used for infrastructure, technology, consultants, training, and other efforts leading to the recruitment of new foster and adoptive families, as well as addressing the barriers to permanency for children.
Become a NAFI CT Foster Family
While foster children placed with relatives make up one-quarter of all children in the foster care system, foster families come in many forms and NAFI CT welcomes everyone. To learn how you can help a child by becoming a foster parent, contact our foster care specialists at (860) 560-7324.