Women’s Media Center: Closed courts create anguish for families separated by child welfare system

“In states with shelter-in-place orders, most courts have been closed or able to hear only limited types of cases, with devastating consequences for some families. The lack of access to courts has delayed reunifications for families with children in foster care, and has caused difficulties for child custody arrangements in domestic violence cases.

The outsized impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable populations includes these families. “The pandemic brings into focus all that was wrong with the system even when times were good,” said Emma Ketteringham, managing director of the Family Defense Practice at Bronx Defenders, a public defender nonprofit. “Many of the families that have been separated by the child welfare system have been separated because of reasons of poverty. Lack of stable housing, food insecurity, lack of child care, and a lack of steady income were the reasons for child welfare involvement before this crisis, and these things are an even greater struggle now. The vast majority of our cases are about these issues.”

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