SPOKANE, Wash. — Under normal circumstances, the non-profit Treehouse would be focused on ensuring that each foster child is receiving equal educational opportunities. But with the COVID-19 outbreak, the non-profit decided to switch gears.
Ernest Henderson, Associate Director of Education Programs at Treehouse, said that children in the foster system are a high risk subset of the community.
"Youth in foster care are an incredibly marginalized and forgotten population. if we're not there to serve them they may not be able to find those needs somewhere else," Henderson said.
Ensuring they have those resources has become harder amid the economic struggles many people are facing due to the nation's necessary response to the coronavirus.
Foster parents are going through the same financial troubles as everyone else.
"Caregivers are funded for a certain amount of meals every month. And now they're required to give 10 more meals per kid per week," Henderson said.
Instead of helping children attend summer camps, or take extra classes, Treehouse is providing families with financial assistance for food and internet access.
Even with the assistance, Henderson says some children will have to be shifted into different homes.
Treehouse is also providing rent assistance to youth and young adults living independently.
"That's our biggest fear. that our caregivers are going start finding unemployment issues themselves so they are going to have to detract the services their giving," Henderson said.
With all of this happening, the children cannot talk to their mentors face to face.
Henderson said that support system is vital for students, so they are providing phones or tablets to those who do not have access at home. The goal is to bring a sense of normalcy to this potentially confusing time.