In this time of public uncertainty, MARE is committed to continuing our mission to find adoptive homes for children and teens in foster care. The youth of foster care are already some of the most vulnerable in our society and this is only exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. We need to keep working to end their time in limbo and continue to work to find adoptive families for them. In the midst of uncertainty, our children need us now, more than ever.
As we address the evolving situation with COVID-19, you can count on MARE to keep our focus on serving children and families. Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about what to expect from MARE and DCF at this time:
COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How is MARE operating during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: MARE is fully operational with staff working remotely and most accessible via email. For specific staff email addresses visit https://www.mareinc.org/page/meet-the-staff. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any general adoption questions or curiosities about what this pandemic means for your adoption journey. We remain committed to minimizing delays in getting waiting children and teens the permanency they deserve.
Q: I’m a social worker – what can I expect from my MARE Child Services Coordinator?
A: Everything you have come to expect! Child Service Coordinators are continuing to register and update waiting children, suggest matches with prospective families, and execute child-specific recruitment. Additionally, we are hosting Virtual Matching Events for social workers across the state. Outdoor photo and video shoots are now being planned in accordance with social distance precautions. Wednesday’s Child shoots are on hold; however, waiting children can still be presented in digital and print media.
Q: I’m a home studied family waiting for a placement – what can I expect from MARE Family Support Services?
A: We are here to answer questions regarding the matching process, provide relevant materials and resources, and respond to any inquiries about children profiled on our website. We are registering homestudies and identifying matches between registered families and waiting children. We have added an additional matching opportunity for waiting families to submit brief video profiles to be shared with adoption workers to facilitate matching. For questions on this program, please email Ricardo Franco (firstname.lastname@example.org). We continue to match waiting families with experienced Mentor families for support and guidance.
Q: Is MARE still hosting events?
A: At present, there are no in-person events scheduled through the end of Summer 2020. We are hosting Virtual Matching Events for professionals on an ongoing basis. Ensure you are subscribed to our e-communications to be notified of additional virtual events as they are scheduled.
Q: What can I expect from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the contracted adoption agencies during this time?
A: The large majority of DCF/Contract Agency Adoption staff are working remotely, and have access to phone, email and FaceTime, with email being the most effective means of communication. Adoption staff are working diligently to conduct business as usual wherever possible, with the priority being the safety and well-being of existing foster youth and foster families. Click here to read DCF’s letter to foster/pre-adoptive parents regarding COVID-19.
Q: Can I start the process of adoption from foster care during this time?
A: Yes. DCF and contract agencies are continuing to accept applications for new foster/pre-adoptive parents. In typical times, it can take several weeks between submission of an online application and hearing back from a DCF staff person, so do not be concerned if you do not hear from someone immediately.
Q: Is online MAPP training being offered?
A: DCF is actively working on updating the MAPP training curriculum such that it can be provided virtually to prospective foster and adoptive families. Implementation of these trainings will be gradual and may vary by region, however it is anticipated they can be offered by early Summer. Some contracted agencies are currently offering MAPP Training via a virtual format.
Q: Can a license study/homestudy be completed at this time?
A: During the COVID-19 outbreak, DCF will temporarily approve foster/adoptive families pending future license completion in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and comply with the limitations imposed by social distancing. In these instances, the Department has outlined the following modifications to the approval process.
DCF staff are using WebEx or other secure platforms to conduct virtual homevisits and interviews. The content, structure and frequency of the visits are identical to an in-person licensing process. Home inspections can be completed via a virtual tour of the home, which will include a demonstration of all rooms, exterior spaces, yard and mailbox/apartment number. You may also be asked to submit measurements and photos of all of the spaces in the home. Additional verification of physical space will occur after emergency protocols have ended. You may be asked to provide PDFs of financial statements, paychecks, medical records, school records, etc.
In recognition that it may be difficult or impossible to obtain physical documentation of many pieces of information required in the licensing process, several temporary accommodations may be made. If the applicant is not able to provide birth, marriage, or death certificates, temporary approval may be granted without official documents, as long as the applicant provides the date, identity and description of the information on each document, and the official documentation is provided after social distancing concludes. Adoptions may not be finalized unless such documentation has been received.
Temporary approval may be granted without physical/medical exams, provided that each individual provides the date and summary of their most recent physical exam, there is evidence of a current telehealth screening with a medical professional, and there is a scheduled future date for a full physical exam. Issuance of a license will be contingent on receipt of physical exam/medical statement after social distancing concludes.
Personal and employer references may be obtained by email or telephone. If school personnel are not available to provide official references while schools are closed, the applicant may provide a copy of each child’s last report card (which indicates attendance) and/or an email from each child’s current teacher that speaks to the child’s school participation and educational progress.
Temporary approval without fingerprinting will be permitted, provided that CORI and DCF background checks have been completed on each applicant/required household members, and background checks have been completed in any other states in which the applicant has lived within the past 5 years.
Q: What does this mean for my disclosure meeting or transition?
A: Matching efforts and disclosure meetings continue. Decisions about moving a child into a new home are occurring on a case by case basis, considering all factors related to the health and safety of both the child and family. You should speak directly with your family resource worker about what this means for your unique situation.
Q: What is happening with court proceedings related to adoption?
A: As allowed by the Supreme Judicial Court, the Juvenile Court has issued its own standing order. All trials, including Terminations of Parental Rights and adjudications, will be postponed until at least June 4th. Permanency hearings can be held virtually. The courts are accepting adoption legalization packets and conducting adoption finalizations administratively.
Q: What can I do to stay productive throughout these delays?
A: Regardless of where you are at in the adoption process, we encourage you to use this time to read and educate yourself on trauma-informed parenting. There are some excellent, free, online trainings provided by the Center for Adoption Support and Education here (https://adoptionsupport.org/education-resources/for-parents-families/free-resources-links/)
You might also consider connecting with an experienced adoptive family through MARE’s Friend of the Family Mentor program to learn from another family’s experiences, share your concerns, and build your adoption network.