By Rep. Julie A. Casimiro
There is not a single individual in Rhode Island who has not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in some way, shape, or form. This virus has decimated our way of life, particularly for the most vulnerable in our state and there is no group more vulnerable than Rhode Island’s foster children. When I was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016, one of my main objectives was to help and support our state’s vulnerable children, a cause that I have consistently advocated for every single day I walk into the State House. Having worked in the child welfare world, I saw the difference that is made in a child’s life if they have a stable home and a network of support that believes in their potential and the compassion and understanding to get through periods of upheaval and uncertainty.
We are now faced with perhaps our state’s most uncertain times in recent memory, but thankfully, DCYF and its dedicated staffers have remained vigilant during this health crisis by supporting and nurturing Rhode Island’s foster children and the loving foster parents willing to raise another child as their own, especially during a global pandemic.
DCYF has been offering support services such as increasing foster board payments to care for COVID-19 positive and presumptive positive youth, emergency support for foster families with clothing and food assistance, providing foster parents with masks and hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of COVID-19, assisting foster families in navigating a variety of services and benefits to help with the impact of COVID-19, and offering webinars and support for foster families looking for information on how to best navigate these trying times. DCYF workers have dropped off lunches, provided Chromebooks for distance learning, transported foster youth to doctor’s visits and COVID-19 testing, and developed innovative methods to continually support our foster youth and families during a time when normal practices are no longer viable due to this pandemic.
These workers have gone above and beyond during this crisis, all in the name of supporting our foster children and families to ensure that these children, who have already experienced so much trauma, are cared for and nurtured without further disruption to their already stressful lives. As a member of the House Oversight Committee, I am fully aware of the problems that have plagued DCYF for far too long and have been quite vocal about such problems, but I felt the need to also highlight the good and selfless work that so many of their employees accomplish on a daily basis. Simply put, these workers deserve our thanks and our gratitude and I know that our state’s foster children and the families that care for them are far better off during these unprecedented times due to the dedication of these compassionate workers in helping one of our state’s most vulnerable populations – our foster children.