by Danita White
The unprecedented coronavirus pandemic has been in the headlines all year long. It has shut down schools, put sports on pause, halted travel, and changed the way the world works, lives, and interacts. One group that has been affected but not talked about as much is that of at-risk children. Abused and neglected children, especially those within the foster care system, have been severely impacted by COVID-19.
According to a Marketplace.org report, the pandemic has ground the whole foster care system to a halt. “The courts are backed up. Social workers can’t safely enter homes to check on kids,” writes Kristin Schwab. “And reports to state abuse hotlines are down, in some states as much as 50%.”
Eli Hager with The Marshall Project reports that COVID-19 has left many foster children with no place to go, putting them at even greater risk than they were before. Because they’re so fearful of spreading the virus from home to home, some state child abuse investigators are attempting to do their investigating from the front door instead of going inside or even over video chat. Additionally, many foster parents are refusing to accept new children for fear they might have the virus.
“What we do to our children they will do to society.” – Pliny, Greek philosopher 23 AD
Despite these disheartening reports, there is still positivity taking place. Kids at Risk Action (KARA) hasn’t let COVID-19 stop them from continuing to advocate for and support the people, policies, and programs that improve the lives of abused and neglected children in Minnesota, across the United States, and around the world. KARA engages principals, teachers, social workers, lawyers, judges, police officers, parents, students, health professionals, and the larger community in stopping and healing child abuse and trauma. Since its beginning, KARA has had three big goals:
1) Elevate understanding about the realities of child trauma and child protection.
2) Encourage potential volunteers to begin actively volunteering in their communities.
3) Equip people with resources to take action to better protect children.
The nonprofit action tank is working diligently on two projects to accomplish their goals. First, a collaborative book is in the works. KARA’s founder, Mike Tikkanen, wrote a compelling, educational book on the effects of child trauma and the destructive policies behind the broken foster care system about a decade ago. That material is now being updated by the team at KARA.
The book will be a significant expansion and update of 2005’s Invisible Children & What We Can Do About It, with hopes for it to be released in the Summer of 2021. A title has not yet been chosen.
“Generational child abuse is an epidemic impacting schools, public health and public safety.” – Mike Tikkanen, KARA’s founder
Second, a project called “Invisible Children” is being planned. Over the next 3-5 years, KARA was hoping to physically install exhibitions in local communities across the nation for a few weeks at a time. The exhibitions were to include large educational canvases to read and powerful video footage to watch. Due to COVID-19, however, these plans have been slightly changed. “Under the current circumstances, we’re going to make the project digitally-based for now instead,” Sarah Smith, Project Manager and Recruiter for KARA, said. “We’re going to use social media, PSAs, online trainings, and development of an extensive online resource library to maximize our impact.”
While KARA is based in Minnesota, the nonprofit speaks to the crisis of child abuse and trauma everywhere in the U.S. Supporting the people, programs, and policies that will end generational child abuse and heal children is KARA’s goal and mission statement.
KARA depends largely on volunteers to fill roles critical to the success of their projects. They are currently looking to fill the following remote-based, volunteer vacancies:
1) Grant Writer
2) Resource Organizer
3) Talent Acquisition Specialist
4) Reddit Expert
5) Nonprofit Website Consultant
6) Celebrity Spokesperson
8) Book Editor
9) Campaign Organizer
They are also looking for monetary donors for funding to expand their work outside the state of Minnesota.
For more information on KARA and how you can support its impactful work, visit them online https://www.invisiblechildren.org/.