Stay-at-home order strains Indiana's foster care system

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - The stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus adds strain to the state's already stressed foster care system.

Linda Wrestler of Bethany Services shared her concerns for the well-being of children and how we can help.

"The stay-at-home order really does make it difficult, you know...children, typically they're in foster care, would be visiting, having parenting time with their biological parents, and of course, they would be in school during the day," Wrestler said.

There are efforts to keep the virtual visitation schedules so the foster children can stay in touch with their relatives.

"Which maybe is OK for a middle school student, but it can be kind of hard for a younger one, a one-, or two-year-old to feel like they have like a temporary connection with someone on a video," Wrestler said.

She adds that e-learning means more responsibilities for foster parents and zero breaks. Adding schoolwork is an additional stress for everyone in the home.

Wrestler encourages Hoosiers to express support for foster families in their communities.

"Make meals...(think of) really practical things that you can do to help," she said. "Now more than ever with the coronavirus epidemic, if you think that it's something you can do, please take action."

Wrestler said statewide numbers for children in foster care are stable, if not down slightly. She worries that key reporters of suspected child abuse are now distanced from the children.

"A lot of the reports that we get about child abuse, neglect typically come from teachers in the school system, and the kids aren't in school right now, so I think once...once we get back to more of a regular routine when families aren't so isolated, we would expect those numbers to go up quite a bit," Wrestler said.

There is a concern that during this period of quarantine, Indiana children are sheltering at homes where they aren't safe.

"We do worry about that and we just encourage people, you know, in Indiana reporting is mandatory. So, if you feel like you see something that's abuse, please go ahead and call, it's the law," Wrestler said.