Supporting youth in foster care during the pandemic
Note: This is a guest blog post from YHDP Coordinator for Dodge County, Roxanne Knobbe.
Hello! My name is Roxanne Knobbe and I am the YHDP Coordinator for Dodge County, Nebraska at Care Corps’ LifeHouse. YHDP stands for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project. HUD awarded Nebraska funding for unconnected youth typically between the ages of 18 to their 25th birthday that helps to gain housing and all-around stability.
Prior to working at Care Corp’s LifeHouse, I worked as a supervisor for an agency that was contracted through DHHS to provide supervised visits, family support, and drug screening. This was where I became familiar with the youth in foster care. When LifeHouse was awarded YHDP, I knew that my knowledge and compassion for working with young adults would be a benefit to the agency.
The first week was surreal.
I had housed nine youth before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. I had six more on the list with two of them still in the shelter when we were told that we would be working from home. I sent out texts to all youth on my program explaining the change and letting them know that I was still available. What I did not know, was that I was not available, in the way they needed. The first week was surreal. Dodge County had no positive cases and many of the youth did not understand the urgency or fear that we had. We joked around even.
Sometime during the second week, we had our first positive. Back then, they would say where the individual was. Two of my youth were at the same store, at the same time as the person. It was becoming real. I remember telling my superiors that my youth needed face to face, that I would wear a mask but that the only way I could really reassure my younger population was if I talked to them to their face. Mental health issues arose, and one youth ended up in the hospital after cutting too deeply.
We are in this together, no matter what.
The fear of the unknown is the worst type of fear. I constantly check in with my youth some days just so they know they are not alone. During this time, I have had new youth referred to the program and it has been difficult to try and work on housing and help the youth when I am working from home. I encourage everyone to be open to how they are feeling. What they are feeling is what most of the country is feeling and it needs to be acknowledged. I am honest with my individuals. I don’t know what this will all look once we regain a sense of normalcy. I reassure them that we are in this together, no matter what.
Many people have different views of counties “opening” up. Stay positive. Times like these, it seems like no one knows the answers. Continue to make sure you are staying busy, talking with friends, and remember that behind every storm is a rainbow, and the one that will be coming up will be hella beautiful. 😊