Greater Fall River Healthy Families has remained constant in supporting first-time parents despite the pandemic. In March 2020, in-person home visits were abruptly transitioned to a virtual mode of service delivery with minimal interruption. Healthy Families staff left the office prepared for a brief change, however, virtual work sustained longer than anticipated. The Children’s Trust, our program’s main funder, has situated Healthy Families Massachusetts programs comfortably, providing the program and staff with all the tools necessary for remote work. Despite these resources and support, the need to remain connected with families was crucial.
The Healthy Families program, the Children’s Trust, and People Incorporated supported families with phones, phone cards, masks, hand sanitizer, food, and emergency vouchers. Materials for upcoming visits, child development and parent-child interaction assessments, and groups were delivered at doorsteps for families’ virtual visits. We purchased ingredients for “Cooking with Carmen” groups and delivered on the same day as the virtual group. Together, participants and staff cooked, read, shared the challenges of the pandemic, and built relationships to help reduce the isolation of families.
Everyone learned new modes of technology to sustain connections – and we all became Zoom experts! Fathers – and moms, too – had opportunities for virtual visits, weekly check-in calls, and groups. As the pandemic ebbed and flowed, and as the weather warmed in 2021, outdoor visits occurred with safety as the priority for participants and staff.
Just shy of 2022, covid’s Omicron variant forced the transition to virtual visits once again. Today, as the warm weather approaches, and as we all are learning better ways to live with covid-19, visits are resuming to in-person and in-home delivery to best support families. ARPA funds continue to support families’ basic needs, and the Healthy Families staff will continue to best support everyone we serve.