Written by Kelly Starkey, SVP Partner
For so many organizations across the country, coronavirus has shifted business as usual. But “business as usual” takes on a different meaning when you’re serving the families and communities in which you belong. That was the case for SVP Portland’s (SVP) Community Partner, Latino Network, which works to positively transform the lives of Latinx youth, families, and communities.
The pandemic brought on waves of difficulty for the Latino Network community—with many impacted by financial strain, layoffs, and barriers to accessing care for their children. Layer on top of that the high rate of workplace exposure to COVID-19 among Latino families as well as inadequate access to testing and medical care, and the need for support becomes ever clearer.
Latino Network recognized the critical need to adapt its formerly in-person Juntos Aprendemos program—to combat education inequity and stress for families in the “new normal” of COVID-19. The Juntos team quickly and efficiently took on the task of adjusting its early childhood program to meet families’ gaps during this unprecedented time.
Among the changes implemented, the Juntos team:
- Called Juntos families weekly to assess their basic needs and connect them to food, rent and utility assistance, phone/internet, and healthcare options.
- Provided emotional support to parents dealing with increased stress, isolation, and uncertainty during stay-at-home orders.
- Offered accessible early learning activities that parents could implement with their children using recycled materials and household items.
- Established a 300-member, private Facebook group for families to stay connected, share resources and early learning activities, and receive information from Latino Network’s teachers and parent trainers.
- Offered daily teacher-led story time in Spanish and conducted mini-workshops breaking down Juntos parent classes on Facebook Live.
With these innovative approaches—specifically the story times and mini workshops—staff implemented the full 30-week Juntos curriculum by the end of May—meaning students still enjoyed virtual graduation in June. But the work wasn’t done, especially for some families who could use additional support.
Latino Network has been, and will continue to, collecting and distributing information and resources for parents to support young children with special needs, including sensory activities, tips for maintaining routine while staying home, and behavioral supports. They also help parents with older children to access the “Distance Learning For All” that the state launched for K-12 students. These services make it possible for families with unique needs to not just survive a pandemic, but build resilience through it.
In addition, Juntos is hosting virtual workshops for families—featuring guest presenters including Latino Network’s own Immigration Navigator presenting on Public Charge and accessing vital services, as well as a culturally specific mental health therapist/psychology professor presenting on managing stress and trauma during the pandemic. And in May, Latino Network established a rapid response system to provide emergency client assistance to its program participants, serving nearly 300 families already.
The Latino community continues to face a disproportionate negative impact from the pandemic and Latino Network is committed to adapting their services to meet community needs. SVP is proud to partner with Latino Network and support their innovative development of a fresh vision for serving our communities in difficult times.