CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - With added stress of the pandemic, Ohio’s Department of Child Protective Services remains responsible for placing vulnerable children in safe homes.
Sadly, officials say there are likely more kids in need right now than they know.
After years of taking in children, Glenda Brown continues to foster teenage boys amid the pandemic.
“They need somewhere to go,” she said. “That’s the risk that we take.”
She even has asthma, and at her age she’s considered high-risk if she were to come in contact with COVID-19.
“I’m not going to live my life in fear, because I do trust the lord to watch over me,” she said.
Director Kristi Burre, who works in the Office of Child Welfare Transformation, says the state was originally extremely worried that foster families and facilities would begin to shut their doors to new placements. But, that actually hasn’t happened.
“Many of those families not only said they’d continue to bring children into their homes, but they’d continue to bring exposed children or children that have tested positive," she said.
She says residential agencies have done things like restrict visitors to be safe.
And to avoid additional exposure, foster families have learned how to host virtual visitations between kids and their birth families.
There is one thing that continues to be extremely concerning, though.
Child Protective services says during the pandemic, they’ve seen more than a 50 percent drop in child abuse reports.
In fact, around 60% fewer kids came into state care this April than April of 2019.
That doesn’t necessarily mean fewer kids need help, but they aren’t in school where adults notice signs of physical or mental abuse.
“In these remote learning environments, it’s just more difficult to assess safety and address signs of neglect,” Burre said.
Burre says she is partnering with the Department of Education to help teachers identify red flags.
“We are concerned that there are kids out there that are in need, not just abuse but not being able to meet basic needs,” she said.
19 News reported earlier this month that the state has suspended the rule that kids in care age out at 18 years old.
The state will support those teens as they temporarily remain in their placement homes during the pandemic.