“Young people still need support, guidance, mentorship, and access to resources.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, employees at The Children’s Village had to adapt greatly to find new ways to serve youth and families. With over 1,400 staff on the frontline and over 400 youth in residential care, a new normal needed to be implemented that included use of personal protective equipment, housing in family-like clusters, education about safety and responsibility, and new ways of programming. Youth and families struggled and continue to struggle with basic needs. Children were forced out of school and needed technology, internet access, and virtual tutoring. Thanks to incredible donors and staff, CV delivered laptops and tablets, food and medication, formula and diapers, and much-needed cash for supplies to our families. Programs were able to pivot quickly and creatively find new ways to do their work.
CV’s Adoption and Foster Care Department (AFC) has transitioned to virtual support as the main method of interaction with families. Nothing replaces in-person interaction, and that still happens when necessary, but now potential foster parents are able to easily apply online and do all of their trainings and home assessments virtually, with the same rigorous standards applied. Staff is available 24/7 for foster parent support, and families are also being provided with educational tools like “virtual trips” to museums. Unfortunately, with the courts currently closed and very few virtual hearings happening, adoptions are not being processed at the same rate they were before the pandemic. But the AFC team is making the most of it and providing the creativity and personalized support that families need right now.
The Inwood House Division typically serves over 25 schools in NYC by providing after school support, college and individual counseling, and sex education through its Teen Choice and School Success Programs. The programs have a high success rate with helping teens graduate and gain acceptance to college. Despite school closings, these programs continue to operate virtually, with graduation and college acceptance rates remaining steady. CV employee Gurpreet Grewal, who was responsible for transitioning almost all programming to online platforms like Google Classroom, said “I’ve been so pleased with how effective the online meetings have been. We’ve actually had an increase in attendance, and our teens have been even more engaged.” It’s possible that some students may actually be more comfortable having tough conversations in a virtual setting rather than in person.
CV’s Transformative Mentoring Programs use Credible Messengers to provide stability and offer guidance to youth. Mentor Hassan ElGendi says that despite COVID-19, “young people still need support, guidance, mentorship, and access to resources.” But what that looks like has changed. Mentors are now helping with educating on social distancing and cleanliness, sourcing food and employment opportunities, and adapting how they interact with youth. They are hosting weekly Zoom calls and fostering a real sense of community virtually. Carl Johnson, Division Director, says that “all of our futures depend on this. We must protect one another, now more than ever.”
The needs of staff, youth and families are changing every day with the pandemic, but CV continues to meet their needs creatively, compassionately and effectively.