SOS Children’s Villages Illinois recently gained new attention across the nation after being featured on ABC News Live on May 5. The feature during the special evening broadcast focused on SOS Illinois Foster Parent, Ms. Hope, and the creative and loving ways she is continuing to support the children in her care throughout the global pandemic. This segment, “Fostering Hope,” offered a much-appreciated look into this dedicated Foster Parent and the impact COVID-19 is having on the foster care court system.
ABC News Helps Raise Awareness of Foster Care and SOS Illinois
ABC News Producer, Tonya Simpson first contacted SOS Children’s Villages Illinois in March, as she was creating a digital write-up for ABC News’ website on the impact of COVID-19 on foster care custody hearings and reunification goals.
“I first met Liz over the phone when I was working on a story about how courthouse closures were impacting family reunification hearings,” Tonya shared. “I couldn’t believe how positive and optimistic she sounded in the midst of a pandemic and I was impressed and inspired by her story.”
After speaking with Elizabeth “Liz” Hope, SOS Illinois Foster Parent, Tonya requested the opportunity to cover Ms. Hope’s involvement with SOS Illinois and the compassionate ways she is supporting the children in her care during this unprecedented health crisis.
“When I told Kyra about [Ms. Hope] and mentioned that she used a movie to help the kids understand what was happening, she immediately said we should find a way to share more about Liz and her family,” Tonya commented about the development of this feature. “I am grateful that we had an opportunity do this story and to help highlight a segment of the population being impacted by the pandemic in ways a lot of people probably don’t think about.”
For two weeks, Tonya, Ms. Hope, and ABC News Correspondent, Kyra Philips, worked together to create the segment. Due to social distancing measures, Ms. Hope and her granddaughter, Maya, focused on providing the team with short videos and photos of the family inside Ms. Hope’s home, while Kyra interviewed Ms. Hope and Maya through use of a video conferencing tool. The creative measures allowed viewers a brief peek inside one of our Village homes, bustling with children remaining positive during this difficult time.
Within the broadcast, Kyra spoke of the larger impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the foster care system. Delayed custody hearings and canceled biological parent visitations have created additional stress and worry for children in care and parents working on regaining parental rights. Added to the worry and confusion around the pandemic, the virus is impacting youth in foster care with increased intensity.
For Ms. Hope, however, education on the topic has been a key to creating a calmer, more hopeful home.
As seen in the broadcast, Ms. Hope found accessible, meaningful ways to help explain the pandemic to the children in her home, such as watching and discussing the film Outbreak, reminders on handwashing and mask-wearing, and discussing the parts of social distancing that feel most difficult. By talking about the health crisis in age-appropriate ways, Ms. Hope is able to create an environment where children feel supported in their concerns and encouraged to discuss fears. This type of empathy and honesty makes it easier to address other worries the children may have, too, such as sadness over missed parent visits.
SOS Illinois Children Feel Proud and Supported
The impacts of coverage like the broadcast by ABC News not only helps create positive media attention around foster care, but shine a light on children within the system, Foster Parents, and their supporters.
For the children in Ms. Hope’s home, the story created more than attention: it created feelings of pride.
“The children loved the story; and liked that their story was being told,” Ms. Hope shared with our team. “Even though their faces were obscured, they think they are newfound celebrities.”
When asked why she continues to do this difficult work amid a global health crisis, Ms. Hope’s response couldn’t be more clear: This is where she belongs.
“I feel fortunate to be part of the narrative that uplifts and celebrates the people that give themselves to serve as Foster Parents,” Ms. Hope shared. “This Village comes together to care for each and every sibling group that enters our care. We are committed to helping them heal, see options for the future, and accomplish successes they didn’t think possible.”
Support Children in Foster Care during Foster Care Awareness Month
We are immensely grateful for the thoughtful coverage of Ms. Hope and our mission at SOS Illinois by Kyra, Tonya, and the entire team at ABC News Live. As May is Foster Care Awareness Month, this story is of increased importance as we work throughout the month to raise awareness of issues impacting youth in care.
To help our mission grow, we are in need of your support. As Ms. Hope states best, your involvement in our organization is what will allow our crucial work to continue.
“What we have come to understand is that when we invest and give to keep the important work of foster care alive, we see a great return in academics, self-esteem, reunification, graduation rates, and much more,” Liz shared. “As such, this ripple effect, in the lives of many families, will continue well into the future.”
Feeling impacted by this story? Make a gift today to support the life-changing work of Foster Parents like Ms. Hope and the over 500 served within SOS Illinois Villages and communities.