New York City Scrambles for Staffing, Beds for Foster Youth Amid Pandemic

Michael Fitzgerald - The Chronicle of Social Change

New York City's child welfare agency is “'aggressively' hunting for space to house [foster] youth who are sick or who need to be moved away from ill caretakers," according to this article from the Chronicle of Social Change. The agency says it is exploring other options for children and young people in care in light of the pandemic, including small group homes and residential care. "The concerns are myriad: If a youth shows coronavirus symptoms, they may need to be moved out of the homes of foster parents who are elderly or infirm. If foster parents fall ill, the city’s dozens of foster care organizations may need to find somewhere else to quickly move the child."

In terms of group homes, "'Our greatest concern is either an inability to properly staff those locations — because a mass of staff are affected with the coronavirus themselves, quarantined at home,' said Michelle Yanche, executive director of Good Shepherd Services, one of the city’s larger foster care agencies. 'Or, would we need to quarantine a whole facility with youth inside?'”

“'What happens if we have a cottage of eight kids and staff are sick and I can’t make the required staff ratios? Am I allowed to have that cottage with eight kids and one staff member?' asked Jeremy Kohomban, executive director of Children’s Village, a large Westchester-based human services nonprofit. 'Can I send some kids home to their families if they are not sick, and if they have permission to safely go to their families and also are not sick?'”

Child welfare nonprofit leaders expressed their concerns in a letter to the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio, to which the mayor responded “It’s the next level of things we’re going to deal with.”