by Susan Fotovich McCabe
Special to The Leaven
ATCHISON — With no end to COVID-19 restrictions in sight, adoptive and foster families are turning to technology to access the support they sometimes need.
Starting Sept. 14, the Sophia Center in Atchison will offer weekly Zoom meetings through the end of December to provide families with support, prayer, education and fellowship. The Sophia Center is a ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison.
“Many of the things foster and adoptive parents deal with are similar to the issues all parents face. Of course, there are topics unique to adoption and fostering,” said Sophia Center’s Mary Kay Whitacre, who will facilitate the sessions. “But, I’m sure the pandemic will color these early Zoom conversations for awhile.”
The Zoom sessions for foster and adoptive families are designed for the convenience of busy families, Whitacre said. The sessions will be short — held on Monday evenings from 8:30-9 p.m. — a time late enough that younger children will already be in bed.
A one-time registration is required for participants. From there, one or both parents may attend as many or as few sessions as they like. While the sessions are free to participants, the Sophia Center welcomes a one-time $20 donation.
A focus on fostering
Fostering, in particular, has been on the hearts, minds and agenda of the archdiocese in recent months. With schools in virtual mode and closed for the summer, Debra Niesen worries that many cases of neglect within biological families have gone unnoticed.
Niesen is the lead consultant for the archdiocese’s pro-life ministry. Often, she said, teachers and after-school caregivers are the first to notice neglect or abuse.
Currently, there are nearly 7,500 children in foster care in Kansas — 2,000 more than five years ago. And only 880 foster care homes are serving that need. Recently, the archdiocese held a virtual foster care fair to create awareness about the need, explore ways to help current foster families and lead couples through the conversation of whether foster care might be right for them.
“One important distinction between foster care and adoption is that the goal in fostering is to eventually reunite the child with his or her biological parent,” Niesen said. “Sometimes, it turns into an adoption. But we want to be straightforward about it.”
Typically, foster parents take children for visits with their biological families, if the court approves. However, with the pandemic, those in-person meetings have moved to Zoom sessions.
“The pandemic just adds a different layer of concern to the responsibilities of foster care,” Whitacre said.
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