Parents have been hit the hardest with shelter in place orders. Overnight becoming their children's teachers, therapists and coaches. Some still are working, but now from home. Juggling the stress of financial strain and the unknown of how long this may last?
Parents with special needs children have an added challenges. With schools and care facilities being closed, critical services and therapies that provide structure for their children are now gone. Behaviors spike, progress is stalled and or reverts for these individuals. The choreography of resources for families with special needs is disrupted and it's unclear if that support will be available for families moving forward. Parents are inevitably burnt out and there seems to be no end in sight.
When leadership is considering what falls under essential businesses, the work of parenting is often left out of the conversation. Especially the work of parenting children with special needs. Childcare services and special needs facilities are all navigating how they may reopen while maintaining safety and following all guidelines. Federal block grants have been slow moving to get in the hands of those who need them most and the short term aid isn't enough. The workforce that makes up childcare services and direct care support for special needs individuals are some of the hardest hit. The worry is that despite an increased demand for this workforce the capacity will be limited due to lack of resources.
What COVID19 is teaching all of us is how very essential this work is. How important it will be to re-think our social-educational infrastructure to be more inclusive and accommodating. There is no denying that childcare workers, care providers, teachers, therapists and coaches are essential. They all contribute to the next generation and it is our job to ensure that they are included in the conversations for plans moving forward.
At The Center we have been diligently preparing for what our "new normal" looks like by prioritizing the safety for our participants and staff. We have made it a priority to support our staff during our hiatus despite having a minimal roadway of resources to tap into. Our plans for reopening consider all of the critical guidelines and recommendations as well as take into account our unique workplace. Our updated reopening guidelines are below and if they are of service to you, your families or organizations in your community providing direct care support and trying to figure out how to reopen please feel free to share.
More importantly, rather than just thinking about the near term we are looking ahead - way ahead and have put plans in place for expansion of our facilities. We strive to be able to support more families in need. To be a resource for the growing population of young adults with special needs. In order to do this we have to grow and we have begun to plant the seeds!
To all of the parents my message is relief is coming, there is a light at the end of this shelter in place tunnel. It's going to be different, it will be better and in my opinion you all deserve hazard pay! Thank you to all of the essential work you have contributed to make it this far. Hang in there and be kind to yourself.
Stay safe, stay strong and stay sane!
Acting Executive Director
*This blog post was inspired by a Washington Post Article, link below.