It’s a tough time for the children and families served by Children’s Home & Aid in the Rockford area. The double whammy of the COVID-19 virus and the resulting economic downturn are having a huge impact on families who were already very stressed before the virus hit.
Fortunately, our generous community of donors is stepping up to help!
“We have been so touched by the generosity and support of our community,” said Leonetta Rizzi, Associate Vice President for Children’s Home & Aid. “From donating diapers and infant formula, to sewing masks for our frontline workers, Rockford has come forward to help.”
Children’s Home & Aid serves over 2,000 children and families annually in the Rockford area, through foster care, crisis intervention, parent support and counseling programs. The families we serve in the greater Rockford area are among the most stressed and vulnerable in the region. The COVID-19 crisis has led to more unemployment, and parents who are still working are in essential businesses, where they worry every day about the risks of becoming ill or bringing the virus home to their children. These stresses, added to existing challenges they faced before the crisis create a perfect storm of pressure and risk.
With help from our donor community, Children’s Home & Aid workers are there to meet the growing need. Adapting quickly and nimbly from a face-to-face model of services to the new virtual world, workers are reaching out to families via FaceTime, text and phone calls, to check in on families, asking what they need and how we can help. Sometimes it is an urgent need for diapers, formula or assistance in making rent. Other times, families just need to know they are not alone, and that their Children’s Home & Aid worker is there to help.
Two of our Rockford-based workers, Kiley Hartzel and Heather Clark, have been delivering “respite kits” to parents to help provide a bit of fun and support with the stress of quarantining. “The boxes have art supplies, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, simple games – just a few fun things that might provide a bit of happiness for stressed out families,” said Leonetta.
Our Doula program staff are now there for expectant moms during these uncertain times in a virtual space. “I miss being able to work with the moms-to-be in person. But I’m finding new ways to help, for instance, virtual demonstrations of how to breastfeed,” explains Rachel Miller, a doula in Dekalb.
The numbers change daily, but the Northern Region is working with 388 cases of children placed in the foster care families, and another 133 cases for Intact Program which works with children and youth who remain in their biological families. These case workers are checking in virtually with those parents frequently via video chat and phone visits. They are also doing “porch visits” to let families know they aren’t alone and to determine if additional services are needed to help them weather this crisis.
Foster parents are facing difficult challenges during this time. With economic concerns looming large, many worry they might not be able to continue to foster the children in their care. With the support of Children’s Home & Aid, foster and biological parents are partnering together to help their kids. Biological parents who weren’t able to make regular visits with their children are now stepping up through video – assisting with chores and homework. “Our Foster Parent Mentoring Program (staffed by experienced volunteer foster parents) is also incredibly helpful with providing real time support for parents who might need help from a more experienced hand,” explains Leonetta.
What is the greatest need for Rockford families right now? Help with the basic needs of life.
“So many of our families were living on the edge before the pandemic,” Leonetta shares. “Now, we are getting daily requests for help with meeting the basic expenses of living, such as rent, utilities, gas and groceries, in addition to the technology assistance that this pandemic has uncovered as a need. We are grateful for the generosity of our donors during these times, but the need continues.”
To make a gift in support of the Rockford area families we serve, please visit childrenshomeandaid.org/covidresponse.
Leonetta is also seeking volunteers from the community to help expand awareness of the vital work that Children’s Home & Aid is doing
“We are recruiting Board Members for our Northern Region Advisory Board, and welcome anyone who would like to get involved,” Leonetta says. “It’s a great way to make a difference in your local community and connect with wonderful civic leaders.”
For more information, email Leonetta at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to everyone who is rallying around our children and families to help us get through this crisis – together.