Welfare and foster care services go virtual during pandemic

Trauma support line available for all Floridians

ORLANDO, Fla. – The pandemic is leading to changes for a local organization providing welfare and foster care to children in Central Florida.

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic doctors and trauma specialists have expressed concern about the potential for abuse by parents and guardians.

During a recent round table discussion Florida Governor Ron DeSantis also highlighted the uptick in opioid abuse.

“We’ve seen overdose deaths increase over these last few months and this is having a profound effect and its affecting a very broad reach of people,” DeSantis said.

Sherri Gonzales is the regional executive director for Children’s Home Society of Central Florida.

“You know our physical offices may be closed, but our services have continued and have never stopped,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said the organization helps 10,000 children a year in Central Florida and helps with hundreds of adoptions. Like most essential services during the pandemic, their frontline workers have had to make some adjustments.

“We through our virtual platforms have been able to provide those parent child interactions and also sibling interactions virtually, in some cases we’ve been able to do them in person, again though, with safety precautions and social distancing,” Gonzales said.

Calls to the abuse hotline, Gonzales said, dropped significantly when the lockdown started in March.

“That necessarily really doesn’t mean that that makes kids safer, it really means that there weren’t eyes on kids, so that’s where we saw fewer reports being called in,” Gonzales said.

The Children’s Home Society expected to see the number of calls to spike as schools start to reopen.

“When the kids go from placement to placement it’s really extra important that our frontline team members are there to be able to provide that care, that support, that guidance, that hope, for the children, that we know are in the foster care system and they need that desperately especially right now,” Gonzales said.

Children’s Home Society has also set up a trauma support telephone line for parents, teachers and anyone who needs it. Call or text 1-888-733-6303 anywhere in Florida to speak to a trauma counselor.