The Judson Center says Child Protective Services (CPS) is less busy these days. Experts say that's a result of almost everyone sheltering in place for weeks, and it's only a matter of time before courts see an increased caseload.
"The eyes and ears of the children who might be at-risk are the school system, maybe faith-based organizations and activities and so with schools being shutdown and faith-based institutions.. Their activities ceasing, those eyes and ears are not there to file those reports," Khadija Walker-Fobbs of the Judson Center and Child Safe explained.
She tells 7 Action News reports of potential child neglect or abuse are bound to spike as public interaction resumes. It would be a domino effect on Michigan's foster care system where about 13,000 children per year are placed into a safe space until they can be safely reunited with their biological families. The challenge, Walker-Fobbs says, has always been recruiting willing and qualified foster parents.
"Our concern is just making sure we have the homes licensed and ready to go to support that if that is, in fact, the case which we suspect it will be," she said.
Nathan and Tina Sjogren, who have three biological children of their own, say they opened their home and their hearts to fostering children nearly four years ago and have nurtured 14 kids in that time.
"If somebody was considering becoming a foster home, this would be a great time to do that and start the process right now," Nathan said.
He said, "Every single one of them was amazing."
Tina explained, "We always say that every single foster kid was amazing. I would always say this one's so special, but they're all so incredible. They're all so brave. They're all so resilient."
The couple, who admit there are challenges as foster parents, adds that its difficult to find homes willing to take in teenagers. It's a system that already represents vulnerable and at-risk youth. Other than abuse and neglect, they anticipate COVID-19's economic impact on struggling families will add to the projected spike.
Nathan said, "We've had placements where parents have said, 'I can't do this right now. I need some time. I need help, and that's beautiful.'"
The Sjogren's say providing that safe space is a rewarding experience that leads to an even better rewarding outcome.
Tina said, "Seeing them reunited with their family in a better place (and) in a good environment makes it all worth it."
If you're interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent you can find more information here through the Judson Center.