Making the Most of Virtual Visits in a Time of Separation and Uncertainty

Since the COVID-19 shutdown began, my emotions have flip-flopped between anger at the system, understanding for the safety of my children, and sadness in not seeing them, holding them, playing with them and reading to them. I feel a sense of helplessness knowing that, right now, their well-being is absolutely out of my control. I hope that soon this nightmare will end. 

So far, all in-person visitation with my children has been canceled. For weeks, I’ve only spoken over the phone with three out of four of them, since my eldest (5 years) is separated from his siblings (3 years, 1 year, and 9 months).

At first, my only contact with anyone involved in the case was one of the transporters confirming that they were working on a schedule to FaceTime. There was no response from my case manager. Luckily, my girlfriend and I have a good relationship with one of the foster families, since our baby had a medical issue and we met them at one of the specialist appointments. My girlfriend and I get along and we work together to solve issues that arise. 

Hi and Bye

We have been able to have video calls with our three youngest just about whenever we would like in the evenings. Still, talking to children 3 and under is an all of five-minute conversation, with my 1-year old daughter just saying “hi” and my 3 year old saying not much more. I’m lucky if I can keep them on the video call for more than 5 to 10 minutes apiece as they play, watch TV and only say, “I love you, Daddy” and “Hi Daddy” and “Bye Daddy.”

The scheduled visits with our 5 year old have been early in the morning and at 6 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. I have read books, drawn pictures, tried to sing songs and express how much I miss him and that we will be able to see each other soon. 

Children know schedules and the effects of suddenly not seeing their siblings and parents can scare them, confuse them and have great negative effects emotionally. It’s hard enough to say goodbye after a normal visit, having to carry my kids out to their cars crying. But now it’s even harder, to really not even have contact, see they are doing well or give them the love they need, especially our baby and toddler.

Trauma on Top of Trauma

I am concerned about the unknowns when it comes to my children’s well-being (although I do trust the foster families). Children in foster care are already dealing with the trauma of not having their parents and siblings, and now have no contact. I can’t imagine what my 5-year-old is feeling right now, especially, not seeing his brothers and sister nor his parents after just getting adjusted to being taken away by himself, then having only a couple of hours a week of seeing everyone, to now nothing. 

Our next court date, scheduled for the first week of May, was supposedly to move to unsupervised visitations. I was keeping my fingers crossed that the date would hold. Unfortunately, I just received word that our court date has been rescheduled to the last week of June. It was not news we wanted, but there is not much we can do about it, either.  Hopefully, it doesn’t get rescheduled again.

I still have had no luck in getting ahold of my case manager. 

Making the Most of Minutes 

If I could give any advice to a parent, it would be that, no matter what time you get with your kids, try to make the most of it. Ask what they did that day when you haven’t seen them. Tell them how much you miss them and how you can’t wait to see them. Give them encouragement and praise for everything. Parents need to remember that, as much as it’s hurting you, it’s hurting your kids more. Even seeing you for five minutes lets your kids know you haven’t just disappeared.

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