by Deborah Barnett, Supervisor – Illinois Action for Children
During this pandemic, Illinois Action for Children’s Parent Educators have been on the front lines working with families to make sure that essential needs are being met. As soon as the quarantine began, the team began to make diaper deliveries to families that needed them until our supply was completely exhausted. We’ve since replenished our supply and will begin distributing diapers and formula to families again.
We’ve partnered with Books By the Bushel to order age appropriate books and have them delivered directly to each family in our program. We also upload age appropriate e-learning activities weekly to our website that families can access at their leisure and work on them with their child/children.
As their Manager, it is my job during this time to make sure that their mental health is in tact. Each day, I start out by sending the team a morning motivation to encourage them as they navigate working from home. I encourage the team to take time for self-care activities during the day, knowing that they cannot be supportive to others if they are not feeling supported. During reflective supervisions, the first focus is on their well-being before discussion of caseload families.
The families in our program have welcomed the weekly check-in calls, text messages and virtual visits from the Parent Educators despite being in crisis. Each visit begins with family well being. PEs work with the family to find the resources to help support their needs. Parent Educators give a parent-child activity from our PAT curriculum and ask the family to complete it either during the visit or after. Some families share video clips of themselves working with their children to complete the activity. Being sheltered in their home has helped to support families doing more together. Working with their children on the activities has encouraged them to focus on things other than current events.
For our Spanish speaking families, the Bi-Lingual PEs are helping them access unemployment insurance and other resources.
Virtual Socializations are being planned and facilitated regularly. Each group is unique based on what the families need. There have been groups that focused on family well-being, scavenger hunts, show and tells, and parent cafes. They have been given the flexibility to adjust the normal plan and expectations for groups. The most important aspect of the group is gather families together to share experiences.
We are also planning virtual infant massage classes for parents with newborns and young infants.
IAFC has had to adjust how we engage our children and families during this time. We will continue to evaluate and shift based on the the need of the families and the safety of the those that work closely with them.