From the outset, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about unprecedented challenges and hardships for families across the country. In short, it proved to be a time of need for so many. Under the guidance of the Help Me Grow National Center, Help Me Grow systems nationwide rallied to meet those needs by mobilizing to ensure children and families could access important resources to meet their basic needs.
With support from The JPB Foundation, 11 Help Me Grow affiliates combined their efforts to provide more than 2.6 million resources to young children and families. Through nearly 33,000 unique interactions with families who have infants and toddlers, the affiliates distributed the following resources, as documented in a recently released report:
- More than 1.1 million diapers
- More than 1.4 million baby wipes
- More than 16,000 ounces of formula
- More than 93,000 additional baby items
The participating affiliates in this initiative included Help Me Grow Long Island, New York; Help Me Grow Marion, Florida; Help Me Grow Missouri; Help Me Grow New Jersey; Help Me Grow Oregon; Help Me Grow Orange County, California; Help Me Grow Pierce County, Washington; Help Me Grow Sacramento County, California; Help Me Grow Skagit County, Washington; Help Me Grow South Carolina; and Help Me Grow Tarrant County, Texas.
Shifting in a Time of Need
Understanding the urgency of supporting children and families during the pandemic, the Help Me Grow National Center’s largest philanthropic investor, The JPB Foundation, requested that the Help Me Grow National Center develop a strategy to rapidly disperse funding and resources to families most in need due to pandemic-related hardships.
Help Me Grow affiliates were already seeing a shift in requests for support from families. Prior to the pandemic, most calls from families revolved around better understanding the developmental milestones of childhood. Once the pandemic arrived, those calls quickly turned into requests for basic needs supports. The Help Me Grow National Center conducted a survey of affiliates to better understand this shift in requests for support. A majority of affiliates responded to the survey and reported the most pressing needs of families to be:
- Formula, food, diapers and wipes
- Childcare for essential workers
- Perinatal and postpartum mental health supports and services
Affiliates were able to utilize information from the survey to be better prepared to respond to inquiries from families. They were also better positioned to quickly connect families to available resources to help meet these needs.
Leveraging Existing Partnerships
After collecting and analyzing the survey data, the Help Me Grow National Center developed the strategy requested by The JPB Foundation to meet families’ most basic needs. It involved leveraging an existing workgroup of affiliates that were already focused on better meeting the needs of children and families through building new partnerships.
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States, the 11 affiliates that participated in this rapid mobilization effort were already working together in a Community of Practice focused on integrating Help Me Grow into the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) in their areas. This served as a natural and convenient starting point to deploy this new strategy, resulting in an ad-hoc emergency relief initiative that reached and supported families in their time of need. Affiliates shared, for example, their efforts to establish such relief efforts as food banks and diaper banks.
As the full weight of the pandemic started to be realized across the country, Help Me Grow systems served as trusted and known infrastructures that families with young children turned to for help in their time of need. With the pandemic now in its second year, the Help Me Grow National Center continues partnering with dedicated Help Me Grow systems around the country, its funders, Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health, and the broader Connecticut Children’s organization to go above and beyond in times of need.
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