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Analysis: COVID prolonged foster care stays for thousands

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Leroy Pascubillo touches hands with his daughter, who was born addicted to heroin and placed with a foster family at birth, May 10, 2021, in Seattle. Pascubillo, who had used drugs for the better part of four decades, was in a court-ordered in-patient drug rehab program when the pandemic first hit. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

SEATTLE (AP) — An Associated Press analysis shows that thousands of families’ reunifications have been delayed nationwide as the pandemic snarls the foster care system.

Courts have delayed cases, gone virtual or temporarily shut down, leading to a backlog.

Services such as visitation, therapy and drug testing that parents need to get their kids back also have been limited.

The AP found at least 8,700 fewer reunifications during the first nine months of the pandemic compared with the same period the year before.

Adoptions slowed to a trickle.

Overall, tens of thousands of fewer children left foster care compared with 2019.

State officials acknowledge the data but say each case has unique circumstances and that they’ve done their best in unprecedented situations.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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