LICKING COUNTY, Ohio — In Ohio, at least 16,000 children are in the foster care system. Getting through 2020 was a chore all by itself, especially when it came to kids learning virtually while in state custody. Yet, families managed to make it through.

What You Need To Know

  • Temporarily suspended services like counseling and speech therapy made things harder with remote learing

  • Families can't always be sure when foster care visitations will take place as schools switch back and forth between remote and hybrid learning

  • The Buckeye Ranch has seen a 63% increase in foster care placements

Just before winter break, it was a reading and writing kind of night for little kindergartner Hakeem. Mom, Trisha Welsch, helped him through it, while his brother Jevonte moved through some third grade math homework. 

When the pandemic first started, the two boys were still in state custody and getting used to their new family. But trying to get the whole remote learning thing down too was whole other animal.

“That looks like 5 p.m. I mean, I just had felt like I ran a marathon.”

With four biological kids of her own, Welsch was determined to make the best of it all while rotating devices for Zoom classes and keeping up with everyone’s schedules.

“It was a really, it was a hard bumpy road.”

A bumpy road as well since things like counseling and speech services were temporarily cut — all things kids in foster care often need. 

“It had a negative effect, and even extra programs that I would have normally tried enrollment in the summer weren't there. So, we're talking now months of not getting those you know specific daily services.”

Still, the Welsch kids had something others didn’t — stability.

Tina Boesch, director of Permanent Family Solutions Network at The Buckeye Ranch, said the absence of that made it tougher for many.

“Visitation had previously ceased when COVID first came into effect, and so, you know, parents weren't seeing kids for almost two months," Boesch said.

And when they were re-instated, it was still a challenge because visitations were built around school schedules. So, The Buckeye Ranch stepped up. Boesch said they “help do community visits if we need help with transportation because you know parents may not have a way to get to a visit or caregivers may have multiple children and they don't have time to bring a child to visit.”

For the Welsch boys, they didn’t have to worry about that, as their temporary home became their forever home last October. Welsch and her husband Dave adopted them, making for a seamless transition.

“One of the biggest things is building trust. And that takes a lot of time. And because of the pandemic, what would have could have taken two, three, maybe even longer years was accelerated, and we were able to build that foundation much quicker.”

Welsch said flexibility and structure was their saving grace.

“And this is true for a lot of the foster kids; they kind of need to know what's coming because so much of their life has been uncertainty and they don't know who to depend on and what's going on.”

Plus, with them heading back to school everyday in person and getting the needed services, it’s lightened the load and sparked improvement for them both. Something Trisha’s is grateful for. Officials from The Buckeye Ranch said, one of the good things that’s come out of the pandemic is the fact that families can see, hear and interact with their kids even if it is virtual and visitations aren’t concrete.