Youth Villages helping teens and young adults in foster care navigate through COVID-19

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Teens and young adults in foster care who have aged out are having to deal with new circumstances amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Youth Villages is making sure children in foster care are not being forgotten.

The organization is working with foster children to make sure they have what they need during this pandemic.

“We haven’t stopped providing services,” said Jessi Bernardini, a foster parent recruiter trainer for Youth Villages.

She said although they have not seen any COVID-19 cases among their staff, foster parents, or children, they have seen an increase in child abuse cases.

“School was the safest place for kids to be,” Bernardini explained.

Youth Villages foster parent Debbie Watts said during these times of crisis, foster children may deal with “Trauma Triggers.”

“You know, it’s pretty hard for a child who has been without food or has a situation where they weren’t being fed regularly, or maybe their family couldn’t buy food, and now they’re seeing on the news and social media and just hearing other people talk about store shelves being empty. So that really triggers their emotions,” said Watts.

RELATED: “We’re trying hard. We need foster parents desperately”: Foster care agencies maneuver COVID-19

Youth Villages’ Scholars Program is still helping children applying to and in college.

“We have a few that are right at that transition period where they are about to be going to college in the next year to two years and so just working with them in trying to get all off their credits,” said Megan Bailiff, a foster care counselor.

Bailiff said they have also provided laptops to some of their cases that don’t have the correct resources and helping children find the correct college even during the pandemic.

“We offer extension of foster care services. So what that would look like is they would have a counselor that would work directly with them helping them to enroll in college,” said Bailiff.

For foster children already in college, Youth Villages’ Life Set program is helping students request to stay on campus or find other housing.

“Helping them find apartments, helping them with the life set skills they need prior to college, during college, really just giving them more opportunities to succeed,” said Bernardini.

She said they are constantly looking for foster parents who are willing to take older teenagers to help them navigate life after 18.

Bernardini is having training sessions on April 23 at 6 p.m. and on May 7 at 6 p.m..

Both are virtual lessons and you can contact her at Jessica.Bernardini@youthvillages.org to RSVP.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services along wit Youth Villages are both making face to face visits if video conferencing is not available for their casework visits and other circumstances.

They are calling in advance and asking people to fill out a health questionnaire before these visits occur.

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