Addressing Pandemic Needs

Helping Families Thrive in Challenging Times

By: Kimberly Forbes

Times are tough. Families have had their worlds turned upside down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are now working reduced hours or are unemployed. Many are struggling to feed and educate their children while schools and childcare centers are closed. Some are dealing with the sudden and unexpected loss of loved ones due to the virus. Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health wanted to help families thrive in this challenging time, so we put together My Family is Strong! Community Care Bags.

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Generously supported by a grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the 130 bags bring support to our most vulnerable families in this time of crisis. Each bag reads “My Family Is Strong!” in English and Spanish and contains:

  • A $100 Visa gift card for basic needs
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Educational materials on various protective factors
  • Information on relieving stress during these unprecedented times
  • Information on talking to children about Covid-19 in an age appropriate way
  • Directory on where to find assistance during this time of limited resources
  • Ideas for family activities that are free

We initially planned to spend the money used for these bags on an all-day training event for 90 parents and community service providers in Hartford. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, My Family Is Strong! Living the Protective Factors, would have built understanding of the Strengthening Families Protective Factors Framework, developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy. The framework establishes that families thrive when the following protective factors are in place:

  • Access to concrete supports in times of need
  • Increased resilience to better handle life’s challenges
  • Maintaining social connections
  • Knowledge of parenting strategies and child development milestones
  • Understanding social and emotional competence of children

In pivoting to address the Covid-19 crisis, our care bags accomplish our original mission of educating families about the importance of protective factors, but just in a different way.

Seventy of the bags are for Hartford Public Schools Food & Child Nutrition Services hourly employees, who have seen their hours reduced to just three to four per week. They continued to report to work to prepare and distribute meals to Hartford families, even when protective equipment was not available.

Thirty of the bags are for members of the community served by the New Dimensions Christian Center who recently transitioned from shelters to independent housing. Twenty of the bags are for families served by the Asylum Hill Family Center. Ten of the bags are for families of the Faith Ministries Church who were struggling to meet basic needs prior to the pandemic.

Learn more about our additional efforts in addressing pandemic needs.

We know families are strengthened when they increase resilience, bolster positive social connections, and seek concrete supports when most in need. Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health is happy to help families out, in the hopes that they can be better positioned to thrive in these difficult times.

Kimberly Forbes is coordinator of Connecticut Children’s Practice Quality Improvement Program, which is a program of Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health.

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