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The following introductory blog represents a first-hand account of what it is like to be an early childhood home visiting professional during the COVID-19 pandemic

Rhiannon Riccillo Fruner

Working with families during the COVID-19 pandemic’s stay-at-home order has not changed our work as parent educators with Parents as Teachers as drastically as some may imagine. Yes, we are home visitors unable to enter families’ homes physically, but that has not stopped us from showing up for families.

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Although we’ve fumbled with technology to get it right, we’ve been giving families the ability to continue to connect with us—whether it’s through the other end of a phone line or on a video conference call, where we can continue to be a friendly face looking back—and we’ve continued to listen.

We’ve heard stories of the struggles families are facing because of job losses and their inability to make rent and pay bills. We’ve also continued to see ways they’ve demonstrated resilience by overcoming barriers and solving problems creatively, just as we often do as parent educators.

During these scary, uncertain times, we find ourselves searching the web to garner information to share, to calm nerves, and to provide the facts. We’ve worked hard to accumulate a comprehensive list of resources, much like we always have, to anticipate the needs of the families we serve and be ready to make the connections we knew were essential for our families.

From accessing food, to rental and mortgage assistance, to text and hotline numbers that offer mental health support or information on how to access free internet services—we have put all of this information together. We’ve shared it amongst our team [and beyond], to make sure that we all have the information at our fingertips when a family asks for help.

We have shared ideas with each other on how to facilitate activities over a phone or video call. We’ve developed visit plans that touch on some of the most relevant topics for families right now—especially mental health. We’re managing stress and anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic in lot of different ways, including engaging in yoga and mindfulness activities, inviting the whole household to join in.

We’ve assured our families that feeling this way is typical. Together, we’ve openly wondered about what may make us feel a little better, a little safer, even if just for a moment. We’ve asked families, like we often do, to explore their homes and get creative in finding materials to utilize for activities during our visits and in continued learning.

We’ve continued to support the parents we work with, devoting some time to a meaningful interaction with the youngest child(ren) in their homes. We’re still offering ideas and information to support them in giving their littlest ones their best start. We’ve reminded parents that they’re still their child(ren)’s first and most important teachers and that they’re STILL doing a great job!

Rhiannon Riccillo Fruner, a parent educator with Growing Home, Inc., a Parents as Teachers Blue Ribbon Affiliate in Westminster, Colorado.