COVID-19 blog series By Megan Carolan, Director of Policy Research; Alexis Herschkowitsch, Innovation Associate; Rachel…
Guest blog, authored by Tanya Camunas, Executive Director of A Child’s Haven
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic impacts, ICS has highlighted issues facing children and families in our home state of South Carolina and beyond. As states begin moving toward reopening, following guidance from the Center for Disease Control as well as state and local experts, we want to spotlight how service providers working with families are considering needs and changing operations. Today, we are sharing a post from Tanya Camunas, Executive Director of A Child’s Haven, a provider of therapeutic child care (TCC) and other essential services in Greenville, South Carolina:
As with so many families and organizations throughout the country, we at A Child’s Haven have had to navigate the difficult decisions brought about by COVID-19. The threat to the health of our staff and families forced A Child’s Haven (ACH) to temporarily suspend our three core services of therapeutic childcare (TCC), in-home Family Therapy, and Individual Therapy to children on March 23rd. We closely monitored the crisis each week with a goal to reopen to services as soon as safely possible. As you can imagine, suspending our core services during stressful times can have significant implications for the families we serve, such as deepened poverty, abuse, neglect, mental health decline and family deterioration.
Thanks to support from the community and partners, ACH continued operating full-time (remotely) to implement new strategies, enabling us to provide essential mental health treatment and support to each of our families that we serve. Our Child & Family Therapists were trained in Telehealth and provided weekly remote therapy to all enrolled children and their caregivers in our program, including support to families on our waiting list. We also created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide additional financial support to families as food scarcity, housing and unemployment are additional stressors that were exacerbated by the crisis. We raised almost $12,000 through our Relief funds so far to provide grocery store gift cards and many generous volunteers made in-kind donations to give to families throughout the suspension of our services.
We have carefully monitored the ongoing situation and steps that South Carolina has taken to “reopen.” We started providing pre-scheduled therapy sessions on-site at ACH on May 11th to just a few families in high need of in-person therapy. We have used the past several weeks to carefully develop a plan to safely reopen and provide our TCC service to all.
- ACH’s reopening of our treatment center on June 1st is for therapeutic childcare for our children, which is one of our three essential core services. Much of our focus has been on developing and implementing numerous new safety measures, policies and procedures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, Department of Social Services, Department of Health and Environmental Control, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, etc. Highlights include a car rider line, daily temperature and COVID questionnaire screenings, and extra cleaning practices.
- Individual Therapy to children will resume starting June 1 for each child at our treatment center, during the new, expanded hours of operation.
- We are continuing to utilize Telehealth to provide Family Therapy to all families. We are offering pre-scheduled Family Therapy sessions to higher-needs families at ACH. When safe, we plan to resume in-home Family Therapy.
We have also maximized the time of suspended services by evaluating all aspects of our program, with a goal to reopen stronger than we were before. As an organization that prides itself in using continuous quality improvement strategies to help make informed decisions, we have modified our program operations to maximize resources, eliminate inefficiencies and add more value to our clients and community. We conducted an extensive survey of our families to learn about their needs and what we can do to improve our program. Here are the program modifications we are making starting June 1 based on the results of comprehensive evaluation efforts:
- We are expanding our Therapeutic Childcare (TCC) hours to 7:00 am – 3:00 pm (8 hours) to accommodate working schedules of families, provide MORE direct service treatment to children at our center each day and better utilize our beautiful building. Previous hours were 8:00 am to 1:00 pm (5 hours). By expanding our hours, many more families will be able to transport their children to and from our center, rather than depending on our transportation services.
- We will still provide bus service to the 20% of our families with a CRITICAL NEED for transportation. The decrease in need for transportation services due to expanded hours will allow us to reallocate resources to provide more direct treatment to children and better accommodate the schedules of our families.
A Child’s Haven’s vision is to ensure that all children in our community are thriving and have families that nurture their success. This crisis continues to be a tremendously difficult time for the families we serve, and we are grateful to have the ability to walk alongside them through this storm. We are looking forward to our reopening in June and are approaching our modified operating plan as a learning organization that remains agile to make any necessary adjustments. Protecting the health of staff and families is our priority, much like other organizations who are preparing to reopen. As an organization that teaches resilience to children and their families, this has been an opportunity for us to hone our own resilience.