The COVID-19 Pandemic is disrupting life as we know it, but our community is so resilient. From switching to telehealth to providing early education classes online, our partners are hard at work rising to the occasion. Learn how three of our partners, Any Baby Can, Todos Juntos, and Avance are adapting to new challenges.
Any Baby Can
On Monday, March 16, we closed our physical offices and our staff began working remotely and delivering services via telecommunication (telehealth/televisits). We continue to enroll new clients in all of our programs and classes, however, we have had to adapt our processes and procedures.
The first week, we connected with all our client families to better understand their needs and came up with an individual plan to continue providing them support and services. It is been a month of nimbleness, flexibility, and innovation. Our staff got telehealth services up and running in a matter of days. Parenting classes, early intervention services, parent education, health screenings, and mental health counseling are all being offered through tele-visits or virtual group meetings.
Families, interested in services can still call Any Baby Can at 512-454-3743 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Parents interested in registering for our virtual Nurturing Parenting groups or individual sessions can do so by visiting our website (https://anybabycan.org/parenting-education-classes/).
Through it all, we are hearing from our clients how comforting it has been to connect with their nurses, therapists, and educators. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Many of our clients do not have the resources they need to take care of their families, let alone participate in telehealth. We are making progress and have already conducted 1,826 virtual client visits!
As always, we are prioritizing healthy families and adapting our services as the needs of our clients and the community continue to evolve. The biggest challenge we found was to adjust our services so quickly. Internally, we had to ensure we had the technological tools needed to support our teams working 100% remotely. That included examining our IT capacity, updating our financial processes, and exploring creative ways through technology to continue providing services.
Even though we have received positive feedback from our client families on telehealth/tele visits, it has been a challenge for some. Lack of technology, changes to family schedules due to school closure or job loss, and the inability to meet basic needs have made it difficult for some of our families to engage in virtual services. Clients are having trouble getting the things they need. We have clients asking about diapers and wipes, basic needs – food, and housing assistance. For those who want to support our families, we are encouraging monetary donations to reduce the risk of spreading the virus via physical donations of goods. Our service providers are adapting and providing support to those families in a way that is helping them get through these challenging times.
We want to highlight our staff resiliency. We have been so impressed with how quickly they have transitioned. Even though we had already been exploring how to implement telehealth/tele visits, our staff took on the challenge to learn and adjust to ensure we continued to support the most vulnerable in our community.
In addition, we are so grateful for the community and individual contributions that help us meet the increase in basic needs of our clients and ensure the continuity of services to families as we adapt to the current health crisis. Our programs serve many vulnerable populations who need our support now more than ever.
Regarding what might change after the crisis is over and the shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted, is hard to say since there are still so many unknowns. Before the shelter –in –place, we were already in the process of piloting how to provide services through telehealth. We just had to move to full implementation a bit quicker than we expected. Even though we are hearing positive feedback from clients, we know our clients are feeling anxious and nervous. We are committed to ensuring our families feel supported and will continue this support, whether through home visitation or virtually after the shelter-in-place is lifted.
Todos Juntos had a social media plan in place prior to Spring Break and surveyed TJ families during Spring Break. This helped inform our Emergency Fund and efforts. We know that what families need during this time of crisis and uncertainty is a sense of security. While dual-generation education remains at the heart of Todos Juntos, families are looking to us to connect them to resources. During the crisis our students participate in online offerings, but based on feedback many do it more for the connection versus language progression, as what many need through this is to be seen and reminded that they are not alone.
Todos Juntos is offering services online and through weekly phone calls with families. On March 23rd we began social media readings, activities, music classes, and resources via FacebookLive to give our littlest learners the chance to see their teachers and give moms support midday. Starting March 30th all English classes resumed via Google Classrooms. Our partnership with BookSpring will offer eligible parents our annual Parent BookClub via a private Facebook group which will have all books and materials mailed directly to participants.
Families were all given ABC Mouse and Adventure Academy access. ECE staff has created home kits for learning including playdoh, paper, crayons, markers, stickers, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, paint, books, journals, and other items for families to use. Additionally, Todos Juntos has set-up an emergency fund to help support families who are not eligible for federal stimulus dollars.
The biggest challenge to delivering services is that this highlights the vast inequities in our community. Our rural families could not access free internet from Spectrum because their service was not available there. Most families have to rely on their cell phones for internet activities which can make taking English classes difficult, and for our lower level English classes digital literacy can be a major barrier. The other issue that we have found is that if a tablet or computer does exist in a home it oftentimes has to be shared by the household, so if mom needs to take her English class and an older sibling has a zoom call with a class then that presents a conflict. Additionally, we are asking parents to be teachers at this time of crisis, which can be incredibly difficult under normal circumstances due to a variety of barriers, but if a family is stressed about meeting their basic needs then this could prove to be even more difficult.
What we found amazing and want to highlight is the huge engagement via our social media offerings. Last week an ESL student and ECE parent shared: I just want my normal life back but I am thankful for the time at Todos Juntos because I made friends there and those friends are getting me through this.
After the crisis is over and the shelter-in-place restrictions are lifted? One thing we might continue to do is to have an emergency fund set aside to be used for families in times of crisis should it be needed again. I think we may also have to think about the size of our classes to help ease our community into larger groups. I think can be will be a lot of anxiety and post-stress to deal with. I also think TJ is going to try to recreate our computer lab to help people at all language learning levels immerse in digital learning. One thing that we can all see through this is that the reliance on technology is what is keeping us connected but for those in our community without the skills or means, this is just one more way for them to remain disconnected.
On March 13th, all AVANCE-Austin staff began working from home. Quickly pivoting away from our direct service model, in less than two weeks, our staff developed, built, and deployed “AVANCE Sobre Ruedas,” the remote model for AVANCE’s signature two-gen program.
Thanks to the agility and creativity of our staff, all of our programs (early childhood education, parenting practices, entrepreneurship, and language acquisition) are now being delivered in a remote format. Our education staff continues to engage with our clients on a daily basis through phone or video calls, offering their guidance and support not only through the program materials but through the effects of this COVID19 crisis.
In addition to providing two-gen programs remotely, the AVANCE-Austin team has focused particular energy in connecting our clients affected by COVID19 pandemic to existing resources and ensuring that our network of clients has access to accurate information in Spanish related to this virus. More importantly, our daily operations now include an ongoing effort to conduct a needs assessment for our clients every other week, effectively tracking the effects of this crisis on our families, allowing us and our partners to provide our clients with the necessary information to best meet the need of our clients.
AVANCE-Austin will continue to advocate for the well-being of latinx families in Austin during this crucial time for our community.
AVANCE-Austin’s greatest challenge has been scheduling one-on-one sessions with our clients. While our services used to be delivered to an entire group, our educators have now had to navigate the schedules of each individual family to find a time that works for them to do a virtual call. This has required a lot of flexibility from our staff. Because AVANCE-Austin is prioritizing the safety of its staff during this crisis, we have also not been able to deliver materials that would be complementary to our online learning model.
Even though we have successfully transitioned into a remote model, the ripple effects caused by this pandemic are palpable to both our families and educators. Many of our clients find themselves in a financially vulnerable situation and unable to meet their basic needs. When the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is compromised, our clients find it difficult to continue the path towards self-actualization that resides at the core of our program.
Since our programs are now being delivered virtually, and with a large number of our families sheltering in place, fathers have increased their participation in our programs. More and more families have reported enjoying the one-on-one virtual model since it allows for both parents to meet with our educators and undergo the program as a couple.
Our Census2020 campaign continues to thrive despite the circumstances. We achieved a large number of people join our virtual information sessions and participate in the Q&A sessions. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that our Latinx community is counted accurately in the census. Most importantly, our staff has risen to the occasion and quickly developed the technical skills necessary to launch and manage our virtual program.
We are concerned with the recovery process post-COVID19. Our families are already in vulnerable situations that have been exacerbated by this situation. Once restrictions are lifted, many families will be unable to pay their rent and will face the possibility of losing their housing. We are deeply concerned about our families’ ability to meet their basic needs.