Child Welfare and Pandemics Literature Scan / University of Toronto.
Sistovaris, Marina. Fallon, Barbara. Miller, Steven. Birken, Catherine. Denburg, Avram. Jenkins, Jennifer. Levine, Joel. Mishna, Faye. Sokolowski, Marla. Stewart, Suzanne.
Policy Bench, Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, University of Toronto.
International Resource Technical Report
Published: March 2020
This report explains that amid the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, government efforts are underway to contain the virus and mitigate its effects on populations; however, organizations such as child welfare agencies responsible for helping the most vulnerable in society are struggling to provide the necessary supports and services as are children who rely on them for their survival. This literature scan identifies and synthesizes existing literature examining the effects of pandemics and the identification of policy solutions to mitigate their effects on children in the care of Canada’s child welfare system. Results of the literature scan indicate children in care are at a heightened risk of harm from not only the current COVID-19 pandemic, but in many cases, from government policies being implemented to contain the epidemic. This includes increased risks of: physical and emotional maltreatment; gender based violence; mental health and psychosocial distress; exploitative labor; separation from caregivers; and social exclusion. Early feedback from key stakeholders— children, youth, parents, foster and adoptive parents, caseworkers, probation officers, judges and others—suggests system resources and capacity are under considerable pressure as agencies and child protection workers struggle to provide services and supports to clients. The report concludes that child welfare systems and agencies require policy makers to formulate, articulate and implement child protection strategies that: allow for and encourage increased coordination across all sectors that involve children in care; build on the strengths and positive coping mechanisms of communities, families, caregivers and children; address the challenges of highly venerable populations such as youth in residential care; and provide for the required resources and supports to function not only during an epidemic but also in pre- and post-pandemic environments. Numerous references. (Author abstract modified)
Canada; foster care; foster children; child welfare services; policy formation; risk factors; childhood trauma; Child protective services; interagency collaboration; community based services; COVID-19; DISASTER RESPONSE