Innumerable articles have been published regarding the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have included “before and after” satellite images of city streets, parks, and tourist attractions that were once crowded and are now empty. The satellites that have captured these images have also sailed over a building in Oak Park that predates them all.
This building, in the shape of an H when seen from above, houses the children at Hephzibah Children’s Association’s therapeutic residence, who are cut off from the outside world during the COVID-19 crisis. It has been weeks since they have been able to see teachers and friends, spend time with volunteers, visit with family members, or participate in outings.
This sort of isolation is difficult for anyone, but it is particularly hard on young children who are trying to heal from past trauma. The staff at the group home has been working overtime to keep the children there active and engaged, and has quickly adjusted to support the children in their care, offering one-on-one educational aid to navigate e-learning goals every morning and providing creative and engaging activities every afternoon.
Hephzibah has also continued to work hard to support children who are at risk of abuse in their own homes. The Family-Based Services team is conducting more than 60 home visits each month for children who are forced to shelter-in-place with families that were already at risk for abusive behaviors prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Working with families at risk and keeping children safe in unstable environments is complicated work under normal circumstances, and it becomes exceptionally difficult during a pandemic, when special (and expensive) safety measures must be implemented and many families are under additional strain as a result of lost incomes.
Hephzibah case workers continue to assist these families and to rally financial support for essentials such as rent payments and food in an effort to reduce some of the stressors that can lead to abuse.
Hephzibah case workers are also busy conducting weekly phone and video check-ins with the families they support, helping foster children stay connected to their siblings by facilitating virtual family visits, and helping families engage in fun activities with their children.
Because of all of the extra work needed to support and protect the children and families they serve during COVID-19, Hephzibah’s staff members are putting in more hours, delaying retirements, and putting themselves at risk for serious illness. They are also stretching the resources available to them as far as they possibly can and coming up with strategies for doing more with less. Their unwavering dedication is making the difference between security and jeopardy for Hephzibah’s children and families.
At a time when everything seems so uncertain, Hephzibah’s commitment to caring doesn’t change.
Hephzibah has set up a COVID Emergency Relief Support page on its website. Those interested can go to: https://www.hephzibahhome.org/covid-emergency-relief-support.
Beth Cannon is the communications lead for the Hephzibah Auxiliary Board.