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Covid-19 Presents Challenges for Michigan Agency Overseeing a Foster Care Network

May 08, 2020, 10:07 AM

The Fessenden family and their foster children.

This content is sponsored by Samaritas, a Detroit-based nonprofit social service agency that serves the Lower Peninsula. It offers programs for foster care, senior and affordable living, the homeless, refugee resettlement, job training and school readiness, disability services, home health and prison-to-community reintegration for women. 

Running the state’s largest private foster care program is no easy task for the nonprofit Samaritas.

But in uncertain times like this, it is particularly challenging to watch over the approximately 1,000 children it has responsibility for in Michigan.

“Just because Covid is here doesn’t mean our work stops,”  says Kelli Dobner, chief advancement officer for Samaritas, who is highlighting her agency’s mission in May, which is Foster Care Awareness Month.

A Samartias foster care parent.

Dobner says the program is still doing all it can to monitor foster care, using a couple hundred donated tablets for families and case workers, so the agency can still check in to make certain children are thriving. 

“We’re making sure we’re staying on top of things,” she says.

Part of that also includes making certain children stay in touch with their birth families.

After the pandemic broke out, visits with birth families were put on hold.

“Some children were asking, 'What happened to my mom? What happened to my dad?'“

Thankfully, she says, the computer tablets let children stay in touch with their birth families beyond a simple call.

Michigan has about 13,000 foster children, with about 300 awaiting homes, according to the state. 

Dobner expects the program will take in more children once things settle down. In the meantime, Samaritas conducts virtual orientations online, she said.

“The work has not stopped, either with recruiting or getting the word out of the need for foster care parents,” she said. “Sharing that love with these children is something people never forget.”

Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should call Samaritas at (313) 269-7895. Those interested in donating to Samaratis should click here.

Listen to interview with Kelli Dobner on The Craig Fahle Show



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