At 2:50 p.m. on Thursday, March 12, I picked up my 5-year-old boy from school for the last time in the foreseeable future.
Teddy hugged two of his little friends while I ushered him out, alongside my neighbor and his little girl Odette. Teddy and Odette met as 1-year-olds, and Nick and I have grown to be good friends in the years since.
Outside of the school, despite weeks of unseasonably dry weather, Los Angeles was being pounded by the first of a series of storms that are yet to stop. I gave Teddy my umbrella, which he dutifully held for himself and Odette. Nick and I let ourselves get wet and cold.
At the corner, before Nick went to his car and me to mine, I croaked that I wanted to give him a hug. Of course, I couldn’t. The uncertainty had set in. I couldn’t manage my dissembling. That night, us parents were informed that school would be closed for “two weeks.”
The next day was Friday the 13th. As news of the widening crisis grew, my spirits grew darker.
That is until I got on the phone with the editorial staff of The Chronicle of Social Change. With a calm confidence, our editor-in-chief John Kelly steadily assigned our reporters in New York, Los Angeles, Wyoming and Arizona different storylines to follow.
Karen de Sá, a veteran newspaper reporter who recently joined our team, reminded all of us about the power of journalism in times of crisis. That through our work we can connect, illuminate and endeavor our best to ensure that we are telling stories that don’t allow the children, youth and families caught up in this nation’s child welfare and youth justice systems to be forgotten.
So we won’t.
There are foster children who will miss school, compounding the challenges they already face to surmount instability and trauma to find academic success. Even California’s governor lamented that, as our colleges and universities are shuttered, and as dorms close, foster youth with no homes to return to are frighteningly finding themselves in homeless shelters.
Child welfare courts in some parts of the country are slowing to a near halt, threatening to derail mothers from being reunified with their children and delaying adoptions for children in waiting.
Grandparents, who are caring for youth who would otherwise live with stranger foster parents, are among the highest risk to succumb to the worst symptoms of the virus. What happens if something happens to them?
And youth in juvenile halls and camps are being denied family visits, compounding their isolation.
As a Chronicle reader, I want you to know two things: 1) I desperately want to give all of you a hug; and 2) our editorial team is devoted to covering this crisis with the intensity it deserves.
That latter point is my salve in these hard times.
As I told a friend who happens to be an attorney in Los Angeles juvenile dependency court: we will do the writing, you focus on the kids … “teamwork.” For all of you on the front lines, thank you.
We at The Chronicle are eager to hear your stories. Please email me at email@example.com with anything you think we should know.