As the drumbeats of impending school closures grew stronger the first week of March, Children’s Home Society of Washington took immediate action, mobilizing teams to shift many service offerings to a virtual format in order to continue serving families with minimal disruption. “It would be an understatement to say COVID-19 has had a serious impact on every aspect of our lives and community,” said Gina Cabiddu, community manager for the CHSW branch in Vaughn. She saw increased demand for resources as well as an uptick in new families seeking support. “Many families in our community live paycheck to paycheck and may request situational assistance for basic needs, but the record number of layoffs and backlog in public assistance programs is creating an urgent and immediate need for our families,” Cabiddu said. Current requests center around need for rent and utility assistance, along with food and gas subsidies, as families attempt to meet these basic needs. Cabiddu said that providing emergency financial assistance for families not only stabilizes the household, but also the ecosystem of the local economy. “We are collaborating with our families to navigate new, complex government systems in order to gain access to food stamps or healthcare — a new arena for many,” she said. Social workers are conducting weekly phone calls with enrolled families and our student success programs continue to meet online weekly for ongoing provision of social-emotional and skill building support. “Another crisis stemming from the pandemic is the increase in behavioral and mental health conditions,” Cabiddu said. “The youth we are interacting with are expressing high levels of anxiety, a lack of motivation to engage in school and depressive aspects like disrupted sleep schedules and withdrawing from loved ones.” CHSW works with partners to address other relevant concerns like substance abuse, mental health, suicide prevention, domestic violence, business and economic vitality, medical access and more. By partnering with Help Me Grow Pierce County, CHSW is poised to become a diaper bank location so families will have diapers delivered on a monthly basis — a necessity not covered by food stamp (SNAP) benefits. Along with longstanding partner Communities in Schools of Peninsula, CHSW provided board games and sports equipment in response to families needing to find new ways to adapt to spending more time together. Cabiddu said her team is working closing with the Peninsula School District to find new ways to keep youth engaged in their education in our current virtual world. “We’re printing and safely delivering schoolwork to families struggling with motivation or internet connectivity, returning the following week to retrieve the completed work and offer a reward by way of a gift card,” she said. “The KP is a special community — we pull together during times of hardship and form solutions utilizing the heart and skills of our local community members.” www.childrenshomesociety.org/home.
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