Minnesota’s parent educators provide virtual support during COVID-19
Blog by: Susan Stryk
How does home visiting continue when it isn’t possible to go inside the home? Parent educators across Minnesota have been creative in staying connected with families, many of whom need support more than ever.
Representatives from Hennepin County partner with community organizations to provide six home-visiting programs that help with parenting and connect families to resources. For Hennepin County’s parent educators, at first it was phone calls and texts and dropping off supplies, like diapers.
Next, virtual visiting started. Interestingly, some families became more available and engaged than before. One parent expressed gratitude for the virtual visits, saying they kept her spirits up while home with her baby. Her partner worked full-time and she was isolated from family and friends.
Last summer, parent educators began outdoor visits, following social distancing guidelines. One parent educator described meeting a mother and her child in a park near the family’s home.
“The child was 11-months old and it was their first time in a park. The mother delighted in watching her child crawl in the grass, touch things like tree bark, and laugh about their new discoveries.”
The mother had previously said she felt isolated, was worried about meeting her child’s socialization needs, and was concerned that she wasn’t good at encouraging child development. In the park, the PAT home visitor completed an assessment that found the child was on track developmentally.
The mother was relieved and appreciated that home visiting is individualized to make sure her child gets exactly what she needs. Later, that same parent attended a virtual parent gathering to get to know more single parents.
Susan Stryk is a principal planning analyst for Family Health at the Hennepin County Parents as Teachers affiliate in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Two libraries, two Danas, and one idea
In summers before COVID-19, Hennepin County libraries offered family programming and gave away activity kits and books. When this summer threw a curveball, a librarian at St. Louis Park and a librarian at Arvonne Fraser — both named Dana — had the same idea: connect families with the activity kits and books through Hennepin County’s home visiting programs.
Paula Frisk, senior program director of Home Visiting Programs at St. David’s Center, said, “Our home visitors are excited to distribute these materials to families.” To reach a wider diversity of families, the libraries are including Spanish-language books. When home visitors know what materials a family has, they know which activities they can do during virtual home visits.
Home visiting, and the activities during visits, aim to strengthen relationships between parents and children. Watch this video with lots of cute babies to learn more.
When quarantine started, home visitors had to quickly learn new ways of being with families. Almost a year into COVID-19, more families are staying with the home visiting programs than before. Meg Schrafft, Hennepin County home visiting outreach coordinator, advised, “People still have questions but don’t have a physical place to go. To have your own personal nurse or parenting person to provide info that you didn’t know you needed, can be comforting when everything else is chaotic.”
Salt Lake City’s Holy Cross Ministries keeps services going
Our Parents as Teachers home visiting program is continuing to offer uninterrupted services during COVID-19 through virtual platforms. We are thrilled to be working with 35 families, encouraging young children’s brain and motor development through meaningful play, conversations, reading, and — most importantly — building strong relationships between parents and children. We love receiving regular photo and video updates from parents that show the tremendous progress our students are making!
We’re also happy to announce that our PAT Program office has moved to the People’s Health Clinic. Today, Holy Cross Ministries continues to serve the poor, underserved and marginalized, especially women and children, through prenatal, youth, and ESL education; basic health screening, information, and referrals; legal immigration assistance primarily for victims of domestic violence; and outreach services, which help people connect with community resources.
A letter of gratitude for parent educator Robin Lloyd
The following letter was emailed to Ann Young, director of Missouri Programmatic Services at PATNC
I left a message on your voicemail just wanting to report my experience with PAT and Mrs. Robin Lloyd whom I find just phenomenally excellent as an advocate. She represents the organization in such a graceful and humble manner. I have been working with her for a little over two months now and I have experienced a miraculous change in my life.
It was as if she planted a seed that gives me strength to go harder and farther; to remember who I am and where I came from, and that the key to winning is giving. I want to give a BIG THANKS to her and you!
I owe it to her and this organization. You all are so inspiring and encouraging educators, with wisdom and you offer great information. I wanted to also acknowledge you for being the leader and guiding your team to provide such great training and services.
It has truly inspired me to want to do more for myself for my family and my community.