Considerations regarding conversations pertaining to access visits
It has been a very busy season for FPSO.
We have had participants on a number of committees, have prepared a number of letters, and fielded many phone calls and emails; plus endeavored to take care of all of the regular work of the board.
One of the conversations that keep coming to the board is regarding concerns foster parents are having pertaining to face to face access visits. Early on FPSO’s works on this topic were around supporting the conversations in the local area concerning the suspension of access visits. Over time most if not all face to face access visits were suspended with the option of utilizing telephone and virtual visiting as much as possible.
We now understanding there is work being done reviewing the suspension of access visits. In some areas the conversations are of an inquiring nature with a goal of gauging foster parents comfort and concerns with a potential lifting of the suspension of access visits. Other conversations are focusing on how to evaluate what access if any might be able to safely happen; and within what considerations.
We all understand the social distancing and home isolation are to protect from the transmission of the virus; and maintain a lower rate of virus spread. We understand our government is making decisions and imposing restrictions based on the best medical evidence they can access. We are in support of the recommendations of social distancing and home isolation. Wash your hands and stay home – only going out if you are required to go out.
FPSO has prepared what we would suggest are the key points to consider regarding changes to the suspension of access visits:
- We feel it would be a reasonable expectation for Public Health to verify what they feel is a safe way for access visits to happen with the child/youth’s biological/legal family. We understand our Government is closely relying on the recommendations from high level medical professionals, infectious disease specialists, public health and the world health organization regarding the directives for people. For example; not gathering in groups larger than five persons, for everyone to self-isolate as much as possible, and for social distancing of 6 feet, plus the sanitation of all touch If access visits are to be considered we believe it would be best to have those conversations in place only after public health has agreed that access can be done without risk to the children, the foster families, the biological/legal families of the child, and all of those who would naturally be needed to support access visits (workers, access supervisors, drivers, those who would need to sanitize the space where the visit it to be held).
- We feel as foster parents are volunteers it is unreasonable for them to be required to participate in any level of community exposure that is not necessary, or may not be safe. We believe workers would need to be willing to take on the task of drives and supervision, in the absence of volunteer drivers and access visit supervision. The workers would also need to be willing to take on the task of sanitizing the space where the visit is to take place; or ensure the task of sanitizing is otherwise completed. This would need to be done between each visit to reduce the risk of one family’s visit contaminating the access space for the next family.
We are seeing much information in the media telling us a portion of the crisis in our seniors homes is the workers going from one home to another spreading the virus as they travel from one place to another. It would be a tragedy to see access visits beginning again too soon and end up seeing a clutch of COVID 19 cases connected to a series of access visits at the local CAS.
- We strongly feel the foster family needs to be heard. This point is in no way the least of the three discussion areas. The foster family must have the freedom to agree that they feel face to face visits are safe. They must have the freedom to say yes or no with no recrimination, no pressure. Foster families put themselves in harm’s way all the time for the sake of caring for the children of the province. This is a time when foster families need to be empowered to decide for themselves, for their homes, for their families. They must themselves decide if they feel it is safe for them to participate in access visits for the specific children in their homes and the families attached to those children.
Foster families often go along with what is expected of them irrelevant of being happy with it or not. Access visits in the circumstances of COVID 19 cannot be something foster families are expected to go along with because someone else has decided it should happen. Every foster family needs to hold the right to state if they are comfortable with an access plan, if they feel safe or not, if they are willing to take the risk. They need to be able to not only make this decision for their own reasons and purposes; but they need to know there will be no consequence for their decision.
Foster families are aware it is a part of their roll to support access visits, but they cannot be required to put their family at risk of a deadly virus. They also cannot be asked to work in opposition of the government recommendations of isolation, social distancing and keeping all children at home.
It also needs to be noted that basic screening is not sufficient to ensure safety. Not all persons who have the virus have symptoms, some are carriers, and some have very mild symptoms – screening only those who have active and clear symptoms is not sufficient. Screening those who they themselves are aware they have been exposed is not enough as they may not know if they are exposed and they may not be willing to share the information if they are exposed. A percentage of all COVID 19 cases are of unknown origins, screening may not catch any of these. Testing is also not a guarantee as a test can be taken and between the day the test is preformed and the day the results arrive a person can have been exposed and is now contagious; we also understand if the test is preformed too soon it will not show as positive.
These talking points are documented and shared in an effort to support our local level foster parent leadership with conversations at their local level. You are welcome to include your members in this conversation, and tailor fit it to your needs. We are all aware that each and every agency is its own entity and you know best how to connect with and conversation with your local CAS. We are here to help you in any way we can. We hope this information is of help to you.