Eau Claire (WQOW) – According to the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services, there’s always been a need for foster families in the area, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, children in the foster system might be placed in a more vulnerable position.
Sherill Jahr, a DHS social worker, said in June there was an increase in the number of child abuse and neglect referrals at their agency. She added with that comes a potential need for out-of-home care, or foster care, for infants, siblings, and teenagers.
As of Friday, there are 104 children in foster homes in Eau Claire County, and 55 licensed foster families.
Jahr said they’ve also lately seen more cases with drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues, which exacerbates an already delicate situation.
“Given the pandemic, if families are unemployed and their financial resources are limited, they run the risk of homelessness. If you have an untreated, undiagnosed mental health condition, that can impact a parent’s ability. Then when you factor in the drug and alcohol abuse, it’s a vulnerable situation for the family, especially for the children,” said Jahr.
Jahr said families have a right to not foster a child who has tested positive for COVID or was exposed to COVID, which gives DHS another challenge.
DHS will host a virtual meeting for people interested in fostering on September 8.