A Crisis for a System in Crisis: Forecasting from the Short‐ and Long‐Term Impacts of COVID‐19 on the Child Welfare System

Kristen Pisani‐Jacques - Family Court Review


The COVID‐19 pandemic has thrust the world into a crisis – and the child welfare system is particularly susceptible to its effects. This pandemic has exacerbated some of the most problematic aspects of the system, and its impacts will reverberate long after the immediate crisis ends. As COVID‐19 spread, families were instantly impacted – in‐person family time was cancelled, youth and families were unable to access basic resources, services, and technology, and access to the courts was curtailed. Those short‐term effects may give way to long‐term harms such as disrupted attachments and delays in achieving permanency. The pandemic also reinforced the importance of key tenets of a well‐functioning child welfare system: high‐quality legal representation, creativity, and youth and family engagement. Attorneys must learn from the fallout of the pandemic, retain the best responsive practices, and use the lessons learned from this crisis to transform dependency cases, and the system writ large, into what families need and deserve.