COVID-19 and Child Welfare: Challenges and Responses includes essays by human services professionals, academics, legal experts, child welfare practitioners, and others as they discuss the challenges, significant developments, and innovations resulting from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the child welfare field—including how communities are exposing and addressing difficulties, reawakening a sense of connectedness, and taking the steps needed to advance the goals of the CWLA National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. To download the full collection, visit our bookstore site.


Child Poverty and the Pandemic
Lenette Azzi-Lessing
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the hardships of children living in poverty, with school closings and reduced access to food and housing hitting these children the hardest. This essay describes these and other inequities in pandemic-related harms to children in families that are the most vulnerable. The author points out that solutions to the scourge of child poverty have been available for some time and urges readers to become active in countering the beliefs, attitudes, and policies that perpetuate aberrantly high rates of child poverty in the world’s richest nation.

Exploring the Potential Benefits of Virtual Child Welfare Services
Anna Davidson Abella, Flandra Ismajli, and Linda M. Callejas
This essay explores the implementation of remote services for families awaiting reunification with children placed in alternate care settings. We draw on perspectives from parents and stakeholders involved in family reunification using remote services, gathered through a rapid ethnographic assessment (REA) we conducted between March and June 2020. Based on our findings, we suggest that a hybrid model of service delivery may harness the benefits of virtual innovations in service access while also ensuring protection of parental rights and child safety. We also call for more research on the effects of remote service delivery on vulnerable families is needed.

Communicating During A Crisis: Making Challenges an Opportunity
Megan Branham and Allison North Jones
The protective factors we advocate for in families, including social connections, are the same protective factors that will keep child welfare organizations surviving and thriving despite a global pandemic. Maintaining or enhancing robust communications and advocacy efforts ensures that organizations are communicating and educating policy-makers and other decision-makers about critical services being provided—and the impacts an organization is having despite the COVID-19 crisis.

The Moment to Transform Child Protective Courts
Elizabeth Clement and Vivek Sankaran
This article explores lessons child protective courts learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and how they can use these lessons to build a more equitable system moving forward. The article highlights specific opportunities for innovation to increase access to justice within the child protective system, including efforts courts can lead to encourage stakeholders to resolve issues outside the court system.

Addressing the Digital Divide for Youth in Foster Care
Serita Cox
COVID-19’s first impact on youth in foster care came on March 11, 2020. The Los Rios Community College District—which serves the greater Sacramento, California area—sounded the alarm with an SOS email: School was closing. Many students who were in foster care did not have computers or access to the Inter-net. iFoster, a nonprofit based in Truckee, California, set a scalable plan in place to ensure that every eligible youth currently or formerly in care, between the ages of 5 and 26, would have access to the technology they needed. We have proven with the following combination that bridging the digital divide for youth in foster care is a solvable problem— and one that can be replicated as distance learning continues this fall and into the foreseeable future: (1) the right technology solution(s); (2) accurately identifying eligible recipients; (3) implementing an efficient distribution process; and (4) accessing funds.

Collaboration During COVID-19: The Role of Faith Communities and Technology
Jacob G. Holland and Audrey Deckinga
This essay examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child welfare agencies’ ability to serve children and families. It proposes that the collaboration between child-serving agencies and local churches is essential to providing effective care for children and families who are vulnerable. To spur this collaboration between stakeholders, this article issues simultaneous calls to action: first, for the child welfare system, from policy-makers to caseworkers, to view and intentionally include the local faith community as a critical partner in the work to protect and serve children and families; and second, for the local faith community, from pastors and ministry leaders to lay people, to proactively come alongside child welfare agencies and social workers to serve those in need. This essay highlights CarePortal, a technology platform that connects the needs of children and families to people who want to help, as an effective opportunity for collaboration between the child welfare system and faith community.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Latinx Immigrant Children & Families: A Call to Action
Jesse Ramirez and Kristina Lovato
This essay examines how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed systemic inequities in the U.S. health care system and economy, disproportionately impacting Latinx immigrant children and families. Qualitative findings from interviews conducted with Los Angeles-based social service providers (n = 25) show that practitioners adapted to new demands during shelter-in-place orders by providing remote therapies and bilingual information to dispel myths and fears regarding COVID-19. Collaborations were formed with immigrant advocacy-based agencies to mobilize online services such as ESL classes, legal clinics, and trainings to empower immigrant communities. A call to action is issued to address macro- and mezzo-level systemic weaknesses, and to preserve and build on the strengths of Latinx immigrant families.

COVID-19’s Economic Impact: Threatening a Decade of Progress in U.S. Food Security
Emma Langley and Shannon Strother
As the United States struggles to mitigate and contain the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the nation has faced shocks to household-level income and employment not seen since the Great Depression. As key determinants of food security, these secondary effects of the pandemic challenge working families’ ability to access adequate nutritious food. Public policy measures, including the roll out of Pandemic EBT and adaptations to SNAP and school-based meals, aim to alleviate skyrocketing food insecurity; however, the unsustainable strain on charitable food organizations to meet demand for private assistance suggests that public benefits are insufficient to meet this need.

Creativity Across Borders: Supporting Transnational Families during a Pandemic
Elaine Weisman
A child’s right to a loving family and connection to their culture, ethnicity, race, and language is a cornerstone of CWLA’s National Blueprint for Excellence in Child Welfare. For thousands of children, these connections span international borders. Modifying assessment tools, empowering local professionals, and reimagining service delivery models can increase our ability to connect families in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly in communities that have been hit the hardest.

COVID-19 and the Importance of Addressing Prenatal Care in Pre-Birth Planning Conferences
Anna Caroline Straughan
The CSA #14 policy was issued in New York City as a protocol for child welfare agencies to determine the placement of a baby of an expectant mother whose older children are custody of child protective services. PreBirth Planning Conferences were established as part of the protocol to assess for risks. Expectant women are at a heightened risk for infection with COVID-19, which can cause complications during pregnancy. This article examines the potential of Pre-Birth Planning Conference to support the health of expectant mothers and discusses the rationale for prioritizing prenatal care during COVID-19.

The National Family Preservation Network: Analyzing Remote Child Welfare Services During COVID-19
Michelle Reines
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on family-serving agencies and their clients. The National Family Preservation Network sought to assemble guidance for service delivery by collecting information about how agencies adapted during the pandemic. Fortunately, remote services do not seem to adversely affect the number of families served or their outcomes. Agencies have been innovative in developing strategies for serving families remotely and technology has played a big part in this. The lessons learned from this experience can be applied to other scenarios when remote services may be necessary or preferable.

Shifting to a Remote Children and Family Services Workforce:
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
Marc D. Smith
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and it became clear that one of the best options to help curb and prevent the spread of the virus was social distancing, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services moved quickly to ensure that its child abuse hotline remained staffed 24 hours a day. This meant securing equipment and training employees—and had the added benefit of improving morale and reducing the number of callbacks

The Challenge of Stay-at-Home Orders for Children, Youth, and Families
Rick Azzaro
COVID-19 will forever change our reality and produce many expected and unexpected consequences. In the interest of public health, our response has necessitated the need for widespread restrictions and stay-at-home orders. Stay-at-home orders required us to modify child welfare practices and, often, can add additional stressors related to our capacity to function and meet the demands of daily living. Social services that typically support and respond to family violence, substance abuse, and mental health concerns are dramatically restricted during the pandemic, resulting in decreased access, limited reporting, and isolation of those in need of support services. Families isolated at home are likely experiencing additional stress, increases in intimate partner violence (IPV), substance abuse, suicide, and child abuse. This article explores the unseen consequences of individual and family struggles that happen behind closed doors and provides recommendations for future policies and practices

Videoconferencing in Child Welfare: An Appreciative Inquiry
Angela Pittman-Vanderweide, Robin O’Brien, and Erica Vilay
Videoconferencing has positively affected connections between parents and the child welfare system— though with notable limitations. Some counties have reported increased parent engagement and increased efficiencies for case and court workers. Groups that have traditionally been marginalized may particularly experience benefits, with less disruptive time schedules doing much to alleviate intimidation and burden. Where appropriate, to the exclusion of investigations and family visits, we urge child welfare practitioners and researchers to embed videoconferencing in practice models post-COVID.