While COVID-19 may have inconvenienced many of us in our day-to-day living and has had widespread financial implications for our local businesses, it has not stopped one group of people from caring for some of our county’s most vulnerable citizens – our foster children.
Throughout the past 10 months of the pandemic, a cadre of Talbot County foster parents have continued to meet the needs of children in crisis in Talbot County who have needed the consistency of a caring home until they can be reunited with their families, placed with relatives, or adopted. For many, it has meant assuming the risk of being exposed to the virus themselves, as well as taking on the management of following the CDC guidelines to keep the children in their homes healthy and safe from COVID-19.
“We have been fortunate that none of our foster children or foster families have tested positive for the coronavirus. As staff, we have been diligent about providing our homes with supplies, as well as guidance for managing during the pandemic. We determine the comfort level of our foster parents before making any placements. We want to support our foster parents where they are during this challenging time,” comments Paris Quillet, Special Projects Coordinator at the Talbot County Department of Social Services.
A new support group was formed in October 2019 among the Talbot County foster parents to help parents with any issues that they might be struggling with. The support group, which is co-facilitated by foster parents CJ Phippin and Jeanne Scharf, went virtual in May and has helped to make sure each family has the resources it needs to manage during the pandemic. Phippin, who took a sibling group of two foster children during the pandemic, comments, “Children are still entering foster care during this time. We all want to be able to help with these placements as they come up. The Talbot County Department of Social Services has made us all feel comfortable being open for placement and confident to do this. They have been very proactive with handling the issue.”
Phippin and his spouse Chris also coordinated a donation of pillows, school supplies, and bookbags from Chris’s employer, Sam’s Club. Lysol, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes were purchased by the Department of Social Services and delivered to foster families who had children coming into care.
For Jessica Flaherty and her husband Brian, who were in the process of being licensed as foster parents during the pandemic, the process has gone smoothly for their foster care placement of a two-year-old medically-fragile child. Their foster child has had to be hospitalized two times in Baltimore since her placement with the family in June, which was been challenging for Jessica, as she had to stay with her there and not leave the hospital at all during those hospitalizations.
The Flaherty’s have four biological children, including one child who has Down’s Syndrome. Jessica reflects, “My husband and I have both had experiences with children with these needs – he was raised with a child who had Down’s syndrome and I was raised with foster children. We knew we wanted to adopt a special needs child one day and instead had our own child born with Down’s syndrome. It is our lane and it’s what we are good at.”
Flaherty adds, “I have been blown away by the support of the Talbot County Department of Social Services. They bring supplies to us every month to help with the care of our foster child.”
“No matter what’s going on in the world, there will always be young people who will still require help during trying times. When we take necessary precautions, follow CDC recommendations to keep everyone safe, then we can help others during their trials. Sometimes, helping during something like this is just opening your home and heart to do the simplest things so the child can go to school and that makes all the difference to them,” adds foster parent Jeanne Scharf of Easton.
Over 60 percent of children in foster care on the Mid Shore are ages 14 and older. Foster parents are needed for sibling groups and children with special needs. Call the Talbot County Department of Social Services at 410-820-7371.