By Jeremy Witt, Associate
Since the beginning of 2020, Lambert has worked closely with Samaritas, one of Michigan’s largest health and human services nonprofit organizations, to provide public relations support for its wide range of services. Notably, we have worked together to promote Foster Care Awareness Month, celebrated every May. As an adoptee and product of the foster care system, I have a special connection with the work that we do with Samaritas. With this in mind, I have been pleased to work alongside the teams at Lambert, Samaritas and Tanner Friedman to promote the need for robust foster care programs, foster families and community support.
In April 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic halted in-person meetings and limited opportunities to recruit new foster families. Samaritas needed a new approach to reach its audience. With only a few weeks to plan, Lambert, Samaritas and Tanner Friedman began to develop Samaritas’ first-ever virtual State of Foster Care town hall event.
Today, we are more than familiar with virtual events and meetings, but at the time, hosting a virtual town hall featuring a panel, audience and Q&A was a new approach. When the virtual town hall took place in May 2020, we were only a couple of months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and we were unaware of what the coming weeks and months would mean for foster care.
For Samaritas’ 2020 State of Foster Care town hall, the panel set out to recruit new foster families, share how the community could support children in foster care and address the statewide shutdowns’ effects on foster services. The virtual event and the media outreach surrounding it were a success, helping raise awareness for the challenges the foster care system was facing and the support that was needed for this vulnerable population.
Fast forward to May 2021, and we are more than one year into the pandemic. We all have become accustomed to the safety protocols, virtual meetings and the “new normal.” Foster care organizations have adapted to the changing circumstances and now have one year of lessons, data and experiences that could be shared. To provide an update and highlight the ongoing need for foster families, Samaritas, Lambert and Tanner Friedman scheduled the 2021 State of Foster Care town hall.
The panel featured a wide range of voices discussing a variety of topics, including:
- Remotely connecting and recruiting foster care families using social media, virtual orientations and word of mouth
- Racial injustice with children in foster care, including transracial foster placements
- How the pandemic has affected mandated reporting for coaches, teachers and counselors
- What the community needs to know in order to support children in foster care or become a foster family
According to Laura Mitchell, executive director of Samaritas Foster Care Services, “Mandatory reporters – like coaches, teachers, doctors and neighbors, who are the main source of Child Protective Services cases – have had limited, distanced interactions with children throughout the pandemic. As a result, it is likely that a significant number of child abuse and neglect cases have gone undetected and unreported. More than ever, we have to make sure the community understands the need for foster care and how they can help by stepping up to open their homes to children in crisis.”
With more than 11,000 youths in Michigan currently in need of temporary foster homes, there is much work to be done across the state and in local communities to ensure vulnerable children have access to the loving and nurturing homes they need to grow – intellectually, socially and emotionally. Organizations like Samaritas will continue to work tirelessly in support of this population and the Lambert team is grateful for the opportunity to join them in this effort.
For more information on how to become a foster family or support foster care services, click here. To learn how Lambert can help your nonprofit with its PR efforts, please reach out to our team today.