2020 started with great hopes of growth and change for both The Attic and child welfare in the Permian Basin. Much like most of the world we can easily divide 2020 into a Pre-COVID-19 and COVID-19 Pandemic era. In the 74 days of Pre-COVID-19, we had 30 services to families helping 55 children in all. This is less than our typical “one child every day” but we feel this might be the trend in the early months of the year as CPS activity slows before Spring Break. Still, The Attic Foster Network was the place for foster families and families in crisis to get their most basic needs met. For example, in those 74 days we were able to help 34 children get a bed of their own to sleep in. At The Attic, it’s not enough to provide goods to families if we don’t have the churches involved. Really, it’s the church that drives the mission of The Attic through volunteering at our office, fondly referred to as “The Hub” and opening-up their facilities for Foster Parent Night Out. In January and February we had 4 groups from 2 churches hold Foster Parent Nights Out with over 20 volunteers each. Each volunteer heard about our local foster crisis and activated their hope that they could also provide for our system.
With rumblings of the Coronavirus sweeping across the globe, we kept a cautious eye on the Pandemic. Our new norm hit the Permian Basin on March 14th as we all returned from Spring Break and schools would not open their doors and social distancing was the new catch phrase. Foster Parent Nights Out and info meetings were put on hold but this was not our real concern. How would CPS now perform investigations, parent visits, and countless other tasks that require their presence? How would child safety networks stand up when children were not going to school? How would fostering and adoptive families maintain loving and nurturing homes in the stress of quarantine? The Attic and its volunteer network of support for local families had to pivot.
Immediately we partnered with a non-profit called “One Accord for Kids” to create an online resource for child welfare workers and foster parents. We helped coordinate weekly phone calls with the local foster/adopt agencies, top regional leaders in Child Protective Services, CASA, Fostering Restoration, and medical staff from Texas Tech Physicians of the Permian Basin. We learned that the state was getting fewer reports of child abuse and neglect, as the child safety networks provided by schools were no longer in place. This resulted in fewer child removals for a time but saw removals for abuse and neglect that was much more severe. Couple the stress of quarantining with the stress of subzero oil and it's not hard to imagine that the Permian Basin’s unsafe parents are going to become more dangerous for their children. Sadly, the fear is that the child welfare community will be in the dark until child safety networks are back in place at which time an overburdened system will be swamped with a tsunami of hurt children.
In the first 47 days of the new COVID-19 Pandemic Era, from March 14th to the end of April, we also created an online camp experience to give families connective activities with their children called Camp Quarantine. We shifted our trauma informed care training from a large group setting to an online, at-home, format that fetched 30 family and 8 caseworker registrations. Also, in those 47 days, we far exceeded our typical “one child every day,” serving one family every day and a total of 73 children during that time. Though that is impressive the real accolades go to the community that stepped up to donate 25 mattresses and 23 bed frames.
Moving forward, CPS and foster agencies across the state are bracing for impact and we at The Attic need your financial help as well. We will continue to get much-needed goods and services to our families, train local foster and adoptive parents in the best trauma informed parenting, and educate the church and her people about how they can engage in the foster crisis. We cannot do this alone, would you please consider joining us on this mission by giving monthly, giving a one-time gift, or making purchases on our Amazon wish list. The Attic’s giving page is https://www.theatticfn.org/give or you can mail checks made out to “The Attic Foster Network” directly to the address above. All contributions are tax-deductible and of course stay in the Permian Basin.
-Matt and Jen Waller