One morning this past week, I propped up two phones on my desk. On one phone was the face of our kids’ caseworker and on the other was our private agency family consultant.
Last month these two women sat at my dining room table going over the specifics of our kids’ case. This time, one was visiting our home via FaceTime, the other via WhatsApp. At the beginning of the call, I held up one phone to the other, so they could see each other. I’m not sure if they actually could see each other, but they could at least hear each other.
It was one of the stranger moments of the past few weeks.
Both women are required to do monthly home visits, but we couldn’t all get on the same page to use one video call application. So, here I was looking at two people on two phones. I would have taken a photo of the absurdity, but I was out of phones.
This all happened at the time I typically have a daily staff meeting via Google Hangout and a few hours before the afternoon Zoom meeting with management, which as it turns out was canceled for that day.
Later that same day, I worked out via Zoom with the same family consultant who “visited” my home via FaceTime now guiding a small group in some high-energy exercise.
I wrapped up the day with a FaceTime chat with my sister, brother-in-law and baby nephew.
This is a strange time.
And technology is glorious.
Between four different video applications, I had connected with more than a dozen people outside of my home.
Remember when we couldn’t even watch a one-minute video clip without having to wait for it to buffer numerous times?
Now, most of us can have real-time conversations and see the person on the other end.
Most of this technology isn’t brand-new; we just weren’t taking advantage of it, likely because we weren’t starved for face to face interaction like we are now.
The technology fills a serious need, though it doesn’t replace a hug from a loved one. And Facetime with a baby is just not the same as holding a baby.
But it’s what we have for now. We don’t know when we’ll see our loved ones in person again.
This level of uncertainty about the future is new for most of us.
But it’s not new for kids in foster care.
These kids, for their own safety, are required to go shelter with strangers, often with no notice, for an undetermined period of time in a world that all seems very strange to them.
They have no idea when it will be over. They don’t know who to trust. They miss their family and friends. And they have very little control over any of it.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
There are a lot of resources in place to help them out, including visits with family — happening over video calls these days — to keep them connected to the world they knew and most hope to return to one day.
But for the time-being, they and their foster parents, and probably some other people involved in the case, just have to take it day by day.
I learned a few years back that I couldn’t expect anything to ever go according to plan or timeline when it comes to the foster care system. People have often asked how long kids will live in my home. The answer has always been that I don’t know. Cases have gone much longer than I thought they would and much shorter.
All that living in uncertainty has been good practice for this pandemic.
The orders of what we can’t do right now keep coming, then get pushed further out, and further out, and it all feels rather expected to me at this point. At least in this case there’s less paperwork.
So, we use the resources we have — technology, the outdoors, books — something to connect us to the world we once knew and hope to return to one day.
I’ll watch through a phone screen as my nephew smiles and grasps toys. Babies grow fast, and I hope I can see him in person soon.
I hope I can soon see my nana, too. For anyone keeping track, her COVID-19 test came back negative. She’s living in a facility where cases have been documented. It took so long to get the test back, I’m not sure how much it means. But we’ll take the good news.
Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a foster parent.