The coronavirus pandemic has aggravated the difficult work of finding and maintaining stable homes for the United States’ more than 400,000 foster children. The mechanisms of foster care vary by state—sometimes by county—but many of the same threats loom over each location. Although specific nationwide statistics from recent months are hard to come by, interviews with experts, social workers, and foster parents paint a grim picture of a system where capacity for housing children was already strapped and turnover among placements was already high. Now many local foster-care systems are facing shortages of foster parents and outbreaks in group homes and residential facilities, making what was already an unstable situation for children even more volatile.
Ultimately, Jessica’s parents, older people at high risk for the virus living in a different state, volunteered to care for her foster son if needed. Fortunately, she never had to ask. Although Jessica and her