By Constance Gully
With the emergence of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at the Parents as Teachers National Center (PATNC), we have been working to ensure that we are proactive in preventing the spread of the virus among our employees and the families we serve.
At Parents as Teachers, we view ourselves as one big family, comprised of the children and families we serve, our staff, the board of directors, and our family serving partners. And like most large families, during emotionally challenging times, like the ones we’re all experiencing, we band together to create a strong bond of support for each other.
For most of us, this viral outbreak has changed our day-to-day life in unprecedented ways. It has forced us to make hard decisions to adjust to the new normal of social distancing.
In response to and accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the close of business on Friday, March 20, we closed our National Center buildings until further notice to ensure social distancing and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus among our employees and visitors to our facilities.
And just as we have worked alongside families and community partners for more than 35 years, we remain vigilant. We are making essential modifications to continue to support each other by refocusing our service delivery approach to ideas and resources virtually.
We have established practices that can be put into place as the outbreak continues, like equipping all of our employees to work remotely and continue to operate effectively with no disruption.
Given this broader scale transition that we have made to work remotely, our employees are leveraging all technology solutions like phone calls, email, Zoom, and Teams, to maximize productivity and effective communication.
A five-year Parents as Teachers @ USC Telehealth pilot project established our National Center as the leader in Interactive Video Conferencing (IVC) technology among home visiting models.
We had long been investigating the delivery of personal visits through an IVC platform. This public health crisis has now prompted us to put those learnings into action to reach families during these trying times.
In early March, we issued guidance to our national network of affiliates to help them shift service delivery from in-person visits to exclusively virtual. Also, we launched a regularly updated website with the Parents as Teachers model-specific resources and supports.
This website enables our affiliate organizations to continue service to families through virtual personal visits using a device — preferably a computer (laptop) or tablet — through an IVC platform. The platform allows for two-way, real-time communication between the home visitor and parent(s), guardians, or primary caregivers and their child (den).
Each virtual personal visit contains the same components as an on-ground visit; the method of delivery is the only difference. Additional guidance has also been provided to support visits via telephone communications.
Within our network, we have 1,100 affiliate organizations that deliver our home visiting model to more than 200,000 families annually. Since we’ve transitioned to providing these services exclusively through virtual means, over 40,000 individual video conferencing visits and over 32,300 telephone visits have been completed since the third week in March. Each visit had an average duration time of 59 minutes per session.
As we continue to develop, update and share guidance with our professionals, we are in constant communication with our partners to discuss proactive steps so they are fully informed on how to protect themselves, their families, and the families we engage with against transmission of the virus.
In the coming months, we will continue to guide you to available Parents as Teachers resources, and updates on how we are supporting families.
As we deal with a pandemic unlike anything we have faced before, we want to assure you that we will continue providing the same level of high-quality home visiting services to our families, regardless of the delivery method, albeit entirely virtually.
Your safety and well-being is our primary concern.