The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools across the country to close, often causing students to miss out on social interaction, and for some children, the pandemic has also kept them from meeting potential foster families in Los Angeles County.
Randi Thompson is the CEO and co-founder of Kidsave, a nonprofit that helps connect older foster children – ages 9 through 18 – with families interested in adoption. Kids at those are less likely to be adopted than older children, according to the organization.
"Our whole concept is to take kids who have kind of been forgotten about in the shadows and... bring them back in the community, where they can meet and get to know people," Thompson said.
"We do activities where people get to spend time together, and the kids and the families both have a say in who they get to know better."
The nonprofit holds house visits and events that allow children and families to introduce themselves to each other. Those short-term meetings often take place in public areas or at the host family’s home during school vacations and weekends.
Kidsave reports that those weekend visits, under its nonprofit’s Weekend Miracles partnership program with the LA County Department of Children and Family Services, have served over 500 older youth in the county. About 76% of continuing participants have found a permanent family or a "connection to a caring adult."00
But the coronavirus pandemic changed Kidsave’s plans drastically. Social distancing mandates caused the events to be canceled – and the children noticed, Thompson said.
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"The kids were saying, ‘When’s the next event? When’s the next event?' And we said, 'We got to do something,'" she said. "So, we immediately thought, ‘Well, why can’t we do this in a virtual format?'"
The meet-ups are now held over Zoom, allowing families to do activities with foster children virtually.
Kidsave is also collecting donations that fund care packages for each of the children in their program. The packages, as well as the virtual meet-ups, provide a personal connection for foster youth in a time when that might otherwise be restricted because of the coronavirus.
"We're amazed at how well it’s working," Thompson said. "We're learning so much about the kids because it is a more intimate environment, and we're learning things that are helping us to be able to advocate to help them find permanent families."