Children, youth, and families living in under-resourced communities nationwide are especially vulnerable to the immediate and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and may need different and/or more robust provision of services. At the same time, community-based direct service providers may struggle to know how best to support families while adhering to social distancing mandates.
This tip sheet, based on promising practices implemented by South Ward Promise Neighborhood Partner agencies, offers strategies to help administrators and supervisors support front-line staff who work with clients remotely, specifically regarding three key areas where administrators are likely to experience the greatest challenges: logistics, policies and procedures, and communication.
Attending to logistics is key to successfully identifying and monitoring staff needs at all times, but particularly during a crisis. Logistics focus on assessment, coordination, and management of the resources needed to ensure that staff can work with families in a smooth, timely, cost-effective, and reliable manner. Key organizational considerations include the use of technology and resource management.
Develop a plan to assess the day-to-day resource needs of staff. For example, consider asking staff to complete a survey of the office supplies and technology they need to continue to support clients while working remotely.
One South Ward agency changed to a cloud-based phone system that enables office phone lines to connect to individual mobile phones. Clients are now able to reach agency staff without staff sharing their personal phone numbers.
One strategy for gathering resources is to bring together a team to track and monitor responses to COVID-19. In the South Ward, this team has daily virtual check-ins to identify new resources and update information about existing ones. These check-ins ensure that staff have access to the most up-to-date information, saving them the need to make assessments about resource relevance and eligibility on their own.
It is important to understand what resources are available to help clients with concerns about COVID-19. It may be overwhelming, however, for staff to review each resource and make decisions about which are appropriate for particular individuals or families—especially when some resources may be in short supply. Promise Neighborhood agency administrators should consider working together to identify available local resources and to evaluate communities’ and families’ needs to ensure equitable distribution aligned with these needs.
Promise Neighborhood agency administrators should review their policies and procedures to ensure they are appropriate for remote working and to allow staff the flexibility to be effective at their jobs.
For agencies whose work primarily consists of face-to-face interactions, it may be challenging to continue working while being physically separated. Communication is the foundation of successful remote work. Partner administrators should communicate early and often with a variety of stakeholders important to their agencies, including the following:
While remote working may not be the ideal method for service provision within Promise Neighborhoods or other community-based organizations, there are ways to prepare staff for success. Families living in Promise Neighborhoods will need the crucial services offered by Partners now more than ever before. For this reason, administrators should support their staff through this transition to give them the tools to effectively meet the needs of clients, particularly those who are heavily impacted by the pandemic.
Child Trends collaborated with the South Ward Children’s Alliance (SWCA) to develop this two-part resource that shares emerging strategies and recommendations that may be applicable to Promise Neighborhoods and other community-based human service providers. The goal of Promise Neighborhoods is to improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in under-resourced communities. In September 2018, the South Ward Children’s Alliance (SWCA) was awarded a $30-million Promise Neighborhood Implementation grant from the U.S. Department of Education. With this funding, the South Ward Promise Neighborhood initiative aims to improve the lives of children and families living in the South Ward by increasing access to high quality education and services that help students successfully transition into college or career.
One way Partners are communicating and tracking resources is through the creation of a listserv that allows agencies to share information.
Nichelle Holder is the chief program officer at BRICK Education Network.
Child Trends is the external evaluator for the South Ward Promise Neighborhood, which is a U.S. Department of Education funded initiative run by BRICK Education Network.
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