Hurricane Season Has Started For Children, But No One Is Boarding Up The Houses
We are about to experience one of the largest increases in child abuse reports in decades- This is the Church’s call to action
June marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season. For folks who work in disaster relief and recovery, this is the time to be prepared for the worst, perhaps a Category 5 monster on par with Hurricane Harvey or Katrina.
For those of us engaged with taking care of children in foster care, this is an equally fraught time. We are entering the annual back-to-school season. With it comes the possibility of additional upheaval and anxiety for kids who are already dealing with family-induced trauma and the disruption of being removed from their homes.
They might be forced to attend a new school or go into yet another foster care placement — or deal with both situations at the same time. They may need to make new friends or missing old ones. Their regular routines have likely been shattered.
All of these changes can take a toll on their emotional and physical well-being, not to mention their academic performance. In fact, we know that youth in foster care are one of the most academically vulnerable populations.
Unfortunately, there is very little preparedness being done for children and youth in foster care as the new school year comes around and there will likely be a surge in children entering the system. Polls show that people know very little about the foster care system. This general lack of knowledge extends to the education system, where most educators are not properly trained to address the unique needs of these students, according to Brenda Morton, a professor in the School of Education at George Fox University in Portland, Ore.
“Teachers and administrators are often unaware of foster children in their schools and classrooms and are sometimes unable to meet the needs of this population,” writes Morton in a research paper on “Barriers to Academic Achievement for Foster Youth: The Story Behind the Statistics.” “This begins to explain why foster youth graduate from high school at substantially lower rates than their non-foster peers.”
Children who have suffered neglect appear to be “particularly vulnerable” to doing badly in school, Morton says. In general, she writes, children in foster care have been found to score significantly below their non-foster peers on standardized tests.
However, the arrival of this fall term after a year of COVID lockdowns does mean children will be going back to in-person teaching and into the classroom in most parts of the country. That also means they will be under the watchful eye of educators, coaches and other authorities who can report signs of abuse or neglect.
During the pandemic, we experienced a hidden epidemic of child abuse after schools closed and children were kept in their homes, putting them in closer proximity to potential abusers. Hospitals reported seeing more severe child abuse injuries. Referrals from schools regarding signs of abuse plummeted to nearly zero.
Thankfully, with the return to in-person teaching, there will be more eyes on these children, but we all must not be bystanders.
How we’re helping at For The Children
With the lingering effects of the pandemic and back-to-school season gearing up, we have expanded our direct services to children who have experienced family-induced trauma with the expansion of our school year long mentoring program and partnership with CarePortal. We are also calling upon every church to consider activating a network of church volunteers who are able to step in and provide mentoring, a backpack, clothing, respite and other basic needs.
This is a call to everyone. We must all consider how we can stay engaged in the lives of children entering or already in the foster system, helping them to make progress and watching for signs of trouble. The health of our communities depends on leading these kids to adulthood with as much support as we can muster. Be prepared for the worst during this season of turmoil but give the best of yourself to these children. To learn more about how you can engage, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.