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Foster families say visiting policies expose them to coronavirus

By Brittany Tait, KSL TV | Posted - Apr. 9, 2020 at 10:09 a.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — With social distancing orders in place, the Division of Child and Family Services continues to require in-person visits. It’s putting some foster care families in a complicated situation.

“DCFS is just ignoring it, and we need to get on track and take this isolation seriously,” Sheila Stromberg, a former foster parent, told KSL TV. “We’re just going to see more deaths and hospitalizations. It’s incredibly shortsighted and foolish to not prioritize health at this time.”

Stromberg fostered in Utah for seven years. She said she believes in the foster care platform, but she disagrees with required in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s shocking that safety is not taking precedence here,” Stromberg continued. “This is not the first time foster parents and families have been put at risk by DCFS.”

According to officials, the DCFS COVID-19 Reference Guide is being updated every one to three days, based on new information from the CDC. Officials said many visits with biological families are being done online, but others aren’t.

Earlier this week, one foster care family took their foster child to a mandated in-person visit with the biological family.

“Someone at the visit was showing symptoms of COVID-19,” the foster parent said. “We were so worried. That individual tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday, but with continued visits it seems it’s just a matter of time before one of us will be exposed.”

With continued visits it seems it’s just a matter of time before one of us will be exposed.

–Foster parent

That parent and half a dozen others chose to remain anonymous. They told KSL TV they appreciate the global efforts to isolate and flatten the curve, but they are not seeing the same action from DCFS.

“We have visits multiple times a week,” one foster parent said. “There are case workers, staff members and so many people who could be catching this virus because these visits are continuing.”

DCFS officials estimated 25% of visits are still being held in person.

Parent/child time is essential. It’s one of the biggest predictors of success.

–Diane Moore, DCFS

“Parent/child time is essential. It’s one of the biggest predictors of success,” said Diane Moore, director of Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services. “Federal guidelines say we must carve out exceptions for limited in-person visits; they need to exist for us to do our job properly.”

Moore said they are offering CDC screenings at all in-person visits.

Here is a look at the most recent DCFS COVID19 guidelines.

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