Morgan Terry, BSW’14, MSW’15, a middle-school social worker in Bloomington, Ind., has a heart for kids. At work, she spends her days advocating for students who face food insecurity, housing issues, and other challenges that impact their physical, mental, and emotional health.
At home, she’s a foster parent—one who takes great pride in championing her placements and their families.
“I have been involved in foster care in some aspect since 2014. Until last year, that involvement was [only] professional,” says Terry. “[It’s important for me] to be a safe place for children and to [give] them love and support while they are in my home, [but I also want] to be a cheerleader for their parents. The goal of foster care is reunification.”
We caught up with Terry to talk about the obstacles COVID-19 has created for the public-school system and foster-care community.
How has the pandemic impacted your job as a social worker?
Morgan Terry: During this time, we are trying to reach families in any way that we can. We are texting, video chatting, messaging on our learning platform, calling, and using social media. I have had to use a lot of creativity and resourcefulness, but it is worth it to be able to support our families in this unprecedented time.
How have you seen COVID-19 affecting foster children specifically?
MT: Foster children are experiencing a huge shift in their routine and stability. This looks like [virtual] visits with their biological parents. [Essential therapies and mental health] services have gone virtual as well, which is sometimes a hard way to [receive] those services. My biggest concern right now in the child-welfare world is [for] children in unsafe situations. I am thankful [for] the dedicated staff at the Monroe County Department of Child Services who investigate concerns of child abuse and/or neglect. I know that, as the government opens things up and those vulnerable families need support, DCS will be there to help.
How many children are you fostering right now? Can you tell us a little bit about them?
MT: Currently, I have an infant. He is sweet, smiley, fun, and growing so quickly! He keeps me on my toes and has been a sweet spot [during] this unusual season of sheltering in place. He is my fourth placement. I have had three infants and one teenager. I have loved and been so lucky with each of my placements. I think of them all often and try to stay connected to where they go next.
What advice would you give to people looking to foster right now?
MT: My biggest advice if you are looking to foster is to connect with current foster parents [and] reach out to the Monroe County DCS Foster Care Division. Start off by providing respite care—short-term placements providing respite to other foster parents. If you decide that you are not able to have children in your home currently, connect with a foster family and help with childcare, groceries, meals, yardwork, etc. [You can also] become a Court Appointed Special Advocate, find agencies that work with youth or vulnerable families, and volunteer or donate.
Would you like to say anything to the IU alumni community? Any motivational words?
MT: This is an incredible time to be a human. We are showing [our] communities that we are thoughtful, compassionate, and sacrificial. These are qualities that we fine-tuned at IU and in the incredible city of Bloomington. Find a place to serve and give it your all. It doesn’t have to be front-page news to be meaningful. Those small, faithful, loving acts of service are what define you.
Morgan Terry is just one of many IU alumni who have joined in the fight against COVID-19. This story series is our way of recognizing those who are going above and beyond during this health crisis. To us, they are nothing short of heroes.