A roundup of The Imprint’s most impactful stories in 2020
As COVID-19 began what would be an unrelenting spread of hardship in America, The Imprint spoke with the CEO of a major child welfare service provider in Washington state, one of the first places hit hard in the pandemic.
“It’s a tsunami, and it’s coming your way,” said Dave Newell, of Children’s Home Society of Washington, giving advice to his colleagues around the country. “Go through stages of denial as quickly as you can.”
Indeed, coronavirus challenged everything about the way child welfare and juvenile justice systems operate. Court closures have delayed family reunifications, and the spread of the virus has rendered risky the most basic elements of sound practice – parent supports, family visits, mental health counseling.
With months left until the majority of the country will have access to vaccines, the struggle to get through coronavirus continues, with the looming impact of poverty and recession potentially waiting this summer.
The Imprint has collected all of our coronavirus coverage from the first three months of the pandemic here. A few of the hundreds of stories we wrote about COVID-19’s impact on child welfare and juvenile justice:
Perhaps no storyline encapsulated the uncertainty of the early months quite like that of New York City’s Dorm Project. Current and former foster youth were initially promised protection on campus as the early, deadly wave of coronavirus crashed in the city. Then, their lives were abruptly thrown into turmoil.
As courts and child welfare agencies went remote and limited services, families on the cusp of reunification saw their cases delayed or going in the wrong direction.
Chicago’s top public defender fought to force in-person family visits for more parents after the state refused to adjust its highly restrictive policies during the pandemic. In late March, well-known child welfare researcher Fred Wulczyn wrote that as systems prepared to deal with the present-day challenges of a pandemic, states would be wise to prepare a plan to address family poverty or risk a very large and expensive increase in foster care. “It needn’t happen this way, but it’s best if we prepare for what might be called COVID-19’s secondary contagions, lest we find ourselves ill-prepared,” Wulczyn wrote.