KVC Kansas pivots foster parent training program with virtual platform during COVID-19 pandemic

"It’s hard to get foster parents anyways, but even more so now as different things are going on in the world, and the pandemic." Suzy Mills and other foster parents shared about their parent experience during COVID-19. Photo courtesy KVC Kansas.

KVC Kansas, a nonprofit organization serving the welfare of children, has created a virtual training program to help Kansans become foster and adoptive parents.

Social workers have been concerned that the stresses of COVID-19 could exacerbate issues for children at risk of abuse. To keep the momentum of foster parent training, KVC Kansas began looking for ways to continue preparing adults who want to begin the process of becoming a licensed foster parent.

“Foster and adoptive parents are heroes,” said Megan Maciel, director of recruitment and communication for KVC Kansas. “Fostering or adopting a child, especially at this time, will forever change a life and be one of the most enriching experiences you’ll ever have.”

Suzy Mills, a Shawnee resident with two foster children, agreed, adding that she sees the foster care system becoming more stressed as unemployment increases across the state causing adults to be hesitant to bring a child into their home.

“It’s hard to get foster parents anyways, but even more so now as different things are going on in the world, and the pandemic,” Mills said.

‘We all go through difficult times’

The virtual program offers one-on-one, individualized learning for its foster and adoptive parent training course. Additionally, the virtual class pairs prospective foster and adoptive parents with a professional who provides trauma-informed education and information required from the state to become a licensed foster or adoptive parent.

Overland Park resident Hayley Miller completed KVC Kansas’ virtual course in four weeks. She had considered fostering for quite some time and had started the process just as COVID-19 stay-at-home orders began. She completed the training a few weeks ago.

Miller said she had always wanted to become a foster parent but had put it off for some time. After crossing paths with other single women who foster, it inspired her to start the process, even during the pandemic.

“We all go through difficult times, so as a family unit, just being able to have them focus on the areas that they might need to focus on for a period of time with the hopes of restitution and reunification is really just a beautiful concept,” she said. “Every single one of us goes through those times where we just really struggle and we need some time to get things back to a better spot in our lives, so just creating that safe place for the family, for the kids, to be able to see that reunification happen in a healthy way is just an awesome opportunity.”

Miller said she’s grateful for the one-on-one virtual program, which allowed greater flexibility with the training schedule. The class also set her expectations for the foster parenting experience and helped her overcome any fears and insecurities, especially as a single woman.

“Though the class did not seek to downplay my concerns, it assured me that I would not be alone in this journey,” she said, citing collaboration with KVC Kansas, birth families and support groups.

Harmony Holman, a single parent in Shawnee fostering three children, said she “can’t imagine” that many adults are getting licensed during the pandemic, so the virtual training has become even more important.

“Right now, I feel like everyone is just trying to survive in their own family that they’re not looking at how can we help others so much,” Holman said. “Fostering is so complex that it’s hard to put into words how important it is. You’re taking a child who has been hurt by circumstances and welcoming them into your home and trying to help them heal themselves as well as their family so that they can move forward, hopefully with their biological family. It’s such a worthwhile thing to do.”