It’s a tough time for the children and families served by Children’s Home & Aid across Illinois. The double whammy of the COVID-19 virus and the resulting economic downturn are having a huge impact on families who were already stressed before the virus hit.
“The families we work with were already under tremendous stress before the pandemic. Now their lives have become infinitely more difficult,” says Mike Shaver, President & CEO of Children’s Home & Aid. “They need us now as never before, today and in the months ahead.”
With the help of many generous individuals, foundations and corporations, Children’s Home & Aid is continuing to reach hundreds of families every week, delivering the same vital counseling and support, just relying on different and creative ways of doing it!
Across the state, our programs have moved quickly from individual sessions and face-to-face interactions to a virtual world. Foster care workers and counselors are seeing children and families via phone or FaceTime, and making “porch visits” with the families who most need the connection so we can assess how best to support them. Our early childhood centers in Englewood, Palatine, Carpentersville, Schaumburg and Bloomington are buying food and infant supplies, and hosting drives for families in need, while teachers are creating YouTube videos for their students, keeping them engaged and learning.
Augie doesn’t understand why he can’t go to the Scott Early Learning Center for school every day. That’s why he was so thrilled to receive a personalized email from his teacher, Ms. Caitlin. “His face lit up when he saw her face and heard his name,” says his mom, Ingrid. “She’s even emailed us activities that mirror those he enjoys in her classroom.”
Children’s Home & Aid has always gone where the need is greatest, including bringing support and early childhood education services directly into families’ homes, even before the lockdown. Those home-visiting services are key to supporting vulnerable families and getting young children off to the best possible start – but how do these vital services continue during a quarantine?
Doulas (home-visitors who work with pregnant moms) are conducting visits by FaceTime, including being a “virtual” coach and support person for moms in labor. Our Home visitors are also staying in touch with their families virtually – one toddler was so delighted to see her familiar home-visitor on her mom’s iPad that she tried to hug the screen! Home visitors are doing porch drop-offs of essential needs such as diapers and formula but also “respite kits,” with art supplies, small games and puzzles and learning activities for families who have now become home-schoolers.
For the 33 children (ages 7-14) living in our Rice Child & Family Center – a therapeutic residential treatment program for children in foster care – quarantining without the comfort of a loving family can be very difficult. The Rice staff have been working overtime to help the children feel safe and loved, and to keep them engaged in learning. The days are structured with times for meals, school, P.E. in the gym and chores. A donor supported expressive therapy and yoga program helps the children cope with the stress of being on lockdown while they await he chance to play outside again!
So many wonderful Children’s Home & Aid donors have stepped up to help our children and families. Donors have provided home-made masks for our front line workers, helped to deep clean and sanitize our crisis nursery facility, provided PPE for our front line staff and donated essential supplies such as diapers, formula and household items for our families. One generous longtime donor is underwriting the cost of one month’s worth of lunches at a local restaurant for youth in our Englewood programs, helping both the children and a favorite neighborhood business stay afloat.
Our greatest need at this time is help to cover the $700,000 funding gap left by cancellation of our Spring fundraising events, including our signature Champions for Children luncheon.
“With thousands of families across Illinois depending on us, we are relying on our donor community more than ever,” says Mike Shaver. “You can make a gift online now or contact Sara Irmen at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can make a difference.