The New Normal for DDA Foster Families

As people around the world stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic it’s easy to see how our regular lives can get lost in the transition. The new normal is far from feeling normal to most. For special needs families, the transition can come with extra challenges. Solid routines can be vital for those with developmental disabilities when it comes to their development and comfort levels. Now that social distancing is a reality, routines are forced to change. DDA’s experts, however, are finding some silver linings in the COVID-19 cloud when it comes to supporting caregivers and clients.

For Amy Ris, Program Coordinator for DDA’s Fostering Early Development Program, the isolation means trying to keep the communication between DDA and her clients flowing as best as possible. That means getting online and using technology to DDA’s advantage.

“Our foster caregivers are more drained with suddenly needing to care for the children in their care round-the-clock when they typically would have been in daycare or school,” says Ris. “Our program is ongoing support and training to foster caregivers and we have found this is really where our program has shone during this difficult time. We have been able to provide even more training and opportunities for support by shifting to phone and Zoom calls.”

While duties for parents across the country have increased, there have been some surprises as we all adapt to this new normal. Ris says the social distancing has actually been beneficial for her and her team. “I feel like my hours to connect with foster parents have actually expanded and become more flexible, rather than less flexible. With the elimination of commuting at this time, we have been able to spend more “face-to-face” time with families, particularly those requiring higher levels of support.”

Foster parent Janelle says virtual interaction has been great to have the family feel connected. “We loved getting to see Amy over Zoom for an hour. It didn’t feel that different from having her in-person because her usual bright and cheery energy was felt through the screen!”

Many more are adapting well to the new normal as we take command of virtual applications, but at the end of the day, nothing can replace real interaction with clients. DDA Infant Development Consultant Alicia French reminds us the process might not be so smooth for everyone, particularly if they don’t have access to the technology required to make it happen.

“I try to remind parents not to put pressure on themselves to be perfect and to just try and get through each day as best they can. I think it can be helpful to try and set up a new routine during this time so that there is still structure to each day and kids know what to expect. As well, it’s important to reach out for support in any way possible and connect with other parents that are going through the same thing as you.”

Stay home. Stay Safe. We are all in this together.

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