December 14, 2020
Just as the COVID-19 virus itself is unlikely to be fully understood for many years to come, so too might the pandemic’s full impact on our youth. While unexpected upsides do exist in some communities, it has been speculated that in the country’s most impoverished communities, the disparity in access and opportunity has only grown. Some districts even report high percentages of families that have been completely unreachable since the pandemic began eight months ago. 21st CCLC programs need to expect to up their family engagement game across the board, and many Y4Y tools can help.
To begin with, programs should consider familiarizing themselves with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Parental Resources Kit. While you could simply share the link with families, wading through the resources could be a difficult task for them. Some families may be neglecting their children’s primary care medical needs like vaccinations, or oral care, out of fear of visiting a doctor’s or dentist’s office. Others could be facing dramatic financial insecurity. How can your program help to condense information about available resources, and be a support to your families most in need?
You can offer anonymous family surveys to discover areas of greatest need among your families. Consider customizing Y4Y’s Family Satisfaction Survey to include more questions about their basic needs. For example:
What community resources does your family need assistance connecting with?
- Primary health care for children
- Primary health care for adults
- Food pantries
- Employment assistance
- Child care
Next, be sure to be on the same page with your school district regarding all your program’s efforts. School administrators are pursuing many of the same resources on behalf of families, but don’t have the manpower to adequately advocate for every family needing assistance. Use Y4Y’s Partnering With Schools Rubric to consider where your outreach and alignment is most needed. Explore other tools for continuous education, with particular focus on those nonacademic pieces that families need most, like the Responsibility Checklist for Principal and Program Director, bearing in mind that you can customize these tools to reflect the greatest needs of the day.
Finally, get serious about partnerships you might not have ever even envisioned. Some will be in concert with the school district, but your program might have smaller-scale partnership opportunities that aren’t accessible to the district, like with smaller grocery store chains or thrift shops. Customize Y4Y’s Community Asset Mapping tool to brainstorm with your program team about what businesses might actually be flourishing in the current circumstances. Also, begin relationship building with social services in your area, including those that don’t relate directly to children. You can use the Y4Y Collaborative Partner Request Letter to help get the ball rolling, but be sure to check out all the tools available for establishing strategic partnerships in your town.
A great reflection piece is Y4Y’s September Voices From the Field, in which subject matter expert Stacey Owens-Howard addresses the poverty mindset. “The poverty mindset can lead to the belief that it is the responsibility of others to take care of their basic needs.” By working with families, expect your engagement, alignment and partnership efforts to raise your families up throughout the pandemic and deliver them to a promising recovery on the other side.