PHOENIX - As the coronavirus continues to impact the nation, it also is taking its toll on children in foster care as it becomes harder for them to access their support systems.
Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, is an organization that supports abused or neglected foster children, and now some members are stepping up to the challenge to keep helping those in need.
One CASA volunteer from Arizona has gone above and beyond to stay in touch with her foster child.
The pandemic may be keeping volunteer Stephanie Webster and her 12-year-old foster kid socially distant, but it's certainly not stopping Stephanie from making their weekly meetups more special.
"Because I couldn't see her, I said, 'Why don't you read a chapter, start the book series, and then you write me what you've read?' " Webster said.
While most volunteers have been meeting with their foster child virtually, Webster thought becoming pandemic pen pals would be an even better idea.
"Letter writing, to me, is something people don't do anymore," Webster said. "Initially I sent her four envelopes and since then I've sent her four more, and she's sent back a couple, so I need to get busy and send her some more.
"So it's an incentive," the volunteer continued. "Every time I send her more envelopes I think it makes her want to read more and send back [letters] to me."
The child has been in and out of a number of foster homes and schools. Webster, working with the girl for years, noticed her struggle to read and write and gifted her one of the CASA volunteer's favorite books - "Farmer Boy" from the "Little House" series.
"This child really needed help with her writing and spelling," Webster said. "It just seemed like the perfect solution rather than just reading to her."
Since the COVID-19 outbreak started in March in Arizona, Webster says her foster child has shown major improvement, and her book reports have been a fascinating way to watch her learn and grow.
Webster says she recently received word from CASA that volunteers may be able to start physically meeting up with their foster kids in the next month or so, but that may change depending on the severity of the virus in the future.