Our Staff is working harder than ever to be sure we can still reach parents where they are during this crisis. It has not been easy for anyone to adjust to this new normal or working at home, playing at home, teaching at home and everything in between! Our Family Support Services staff took some time to reflect on these new changes.
Ashley Johnson, a nurse for our Family Connects Maryland Program, a home visiting program for new moms says, “I am so thankful we live in a world where the young and not so young are open to change and embracing technology. Most of the new moms who enrolled in the Family Connects Program during the late weeks of February and early March did not get a chance to engage with our home visiting nurses as we normally would. Some were skeptical to talk to “a nurse,” someone they have never met, seen or made a human connection with let alone share thoughts, experiences, good times and challenges with us. The beauty in it all, is once we start talking and go over how life has been with their new addition, we are no longer strangers and we are able to help each other during this time. Some moms don’t have anyone to talk to because of lack of support systems, current or history of family dynamics, or just plain time; due to multiple children under their care of different ages all home from school and child care facilities.
Around the country we were given an unforeseen challenge to keep us all going and look how creative and innovative we have all become; hosting virtual chat rooms for support when offices are closed to assist with resources, having full department and staff meetings on the same screen you use to check emails, providing health checks and education via telehealth, etc all in a matter of a few weeks…look at us!!!
With so much negativity going around, it seems nothing is going right anymore, but it makes me happy to know we are still doing our best to be there for families and provide education and resources to help them get through this time. On a more positive note most moms I have been able to talk to who are first time parents are enjoying this quality time with just them and their new addition and coping within normal limits. People do still need community resources to assist with caring for themselves and newborns, even if we weren’t in a world crisis, the challenge now is keeping up with changing information and keeping everyone safe if we are able to bring the family items to their home.”
Ann Meyers, also a nurse for Maryland Family Connects, reflected on this changing time as well. She said, “there is a quote that I carry with me every day by Maya Angelo- ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ I strive every day to make sure the new moms I encounter feel confidence, that they are important, supported, cared for, strong and can take on anything that is thrown at them. Today this is vitally important.
When the email came from the executive director of our agency that we would be temporarily suspending in-home visits to our new moms, I felt an enormous sadness and heaviness in my body. While intellectually, I knew this was the right thing to do, everything else in me screamed ‘NO, these moms need us.’ But thanks to the support of an amazing Family Support Services Supervisor and the incredible women who work along-side me each day we banded together to adapt to the ‘new norm of telehealth visits.’ I will admit at first it was a little awkward, but that awkwardness quickly dissipated as the first mom and baby’s face popped up on my computer screen.
One mom I work with said, ‘I cannot believe someone is able to help. Much appreciated. Are you sure this is ok? I don’t want to take resources from you if someone else has greater need. I don’t even know how to thank you”
A second mother of 2, who seemed looked pretty tense and anxious at the beginning of the call said, ‘I really needed this facetime visit. Everything is going crazy.’ By the end of the call she said, ‘You made me feel I can do this. I feel better. Can we stay in touch?’ I also received a text message from a past client, a new mom of one. She said, ‘Ms. Ann I need your help my baby is having trouble breathing.’ The client sent a video of the baby’s breathing, and I did a telehealth call to discuss the situation further. With the permission of the mom I placed a call to the pediatrician’s office and an appointment was scheduled for the baby that afternoon. The baby had a mild cold, the Nurse and mom have had daily contact just to check on the baby and mom. After things calmed down the new mom said, ‘I don’t know how to thank you. I have just been so scared something will happen to my baby. I don’t know what we would do without you.’
Natasha Lawrence is a Family Support Specialist for Healthy Families. This program is focused on expecting parents in Baltimore City. The program includes pre-natal and peri-natal care and can offer support to these parents until their child is 3 years old.
Natasha says, “I am having a great time doing visits with families over the phone/video chat. Seeing the babies over the phone makes my day! They (the children) are so curious about the phones that they always manage to take out of the parent(s) hands. I find it much easier to get in contact with them, being that we are all quarantined. I communicate with all of my families, daily. Whether I am sending food resources or even just to check in during this time. The participants enjoy the virtual visits as well, but I can tell most of them miss the hands-on activities we do in a typical visit. They do better with having a visual of what is to be done versus being directed over video/phone. I miss being hands on, but the safety of our participants and ourselves is more important.”
Sade Watson, the clinical supervisor for our Healthy Families Program, also took the time to reflect on how this pandemic is affecting herself and the families we serve.
How has teleworking been for me? A definite change and adjustment to my normalcy. However, I am so grateful that I am still able to connect with families, outside agencies and most importantly, my team virtually. It has allowed me to “slow down” and encourage my team that it is also okay to do so. Prioritizing and making a daily to-do list has also helped get me through my day-to-day work tasks. It’s the ending of week two and overall, the change has been a good one. Speaking to my client virtually was successful, she and her son were just as happy as I was to be able to see their faces and hear their voices. Letting them know that I was still here for them, even from a far meant a lot to her. This has become all of our norm, and the best way to get through it, is to take it in strides and remain optimistic.
Christina Benson, is a Family Support Specialist for our Attachment Bio-behavioral Catch Up (ABC) program. ABC is designed for parents of babies ages 6-18 months. Christina helps parents’ bond with their infant, and create healthy attachment and ensure baby is growing healthy.
Christina reflects on her transition, “I used to imagine what it would be like working from home. No rush hour commutes. Lunch is always accessible. I wouldn’t have to rush home to loved ones. Working from home is now my unprepared reality. Parents seem to look forward to our virtual visits. Parents are eager to schedule the next virtual weekly visit. I must say, though the current events seem surreal, I have realized how essential we are, as The Family Tree. This experience has humbled me in so many ways. I am so grateful for the opportunity to keep an essential element of the human experience thriving…parenting.”
Dani Emerson is our Mental Health Clinician and the facilitator for our Simple Techniques for Emotional Management (STEM) classes. Dani also reflected on this time of transition, “During the events of this pandemic, we have had to adapt our ways of providing services to our clientele. Personally, I feel like working through telemedicine is allowing us to continue supporting our clients with the services they need through this stressful and unpredictable time. Talking with one of my clients, they expressed that using technology is an easy way for clients to receive the services. I know it’s an unpredictable time and with that comes fear of the unknown, but moving forward maybe telemedicine is something that could be incorporated into the Family Tree’s standard practices, since we are always aiming to grow. I am grateful that I get to continue showing my clients that their needs matter to The employees of the Family Tree.
This has been a challenging time for everyone, and it is important that we work together to get through it. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need assistance, you can call our 24.7 Parenting HelpLine at 1-800-243-7337, use our online chat at the bottom right of this website, or check out our blog on where to find some very needed resources during this time.