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Family Support Specialists Adapt to Continue Serving Families

Family Support Specialist Andrea Serna and New Moms participant Bridget meet for a virtual home visit using Zoom on April 15. Andrea said she’s been “really impressed” by the resilience of the young moms she works with and how they’re willing to be flexible as New Moms transitions to virtual rather than in-person support.

Despite the uncertainty of our world, New Moms’ priority during this crisis remains to support young moms and their children.

As most of our team continues to work remotely, staff are getting creative and adapting to new ways of meeting our families’ needs. This is especially true for our Family Support team whose in-person based services have undergone significant changes.

“Support continues, but it looks a little different,” said Family Support Manager Katie Wise.

As part of our COVID-19 response, the Family Support team has transitioned to virtual check-ins with their participants. Katie says that Family Support Specialists now use Zoom meetings and phone calls to connect with families, as well as sending educational materials digitally. 

Family Support Specialist Shree Topps and a young family meet for a virtual home visit using Zoom on April 16. Each home visit had three educational components — family well-being, child development, and parent-child interaction — designed to enhance the bond between moms and their children.

Family Support Specialists at New Moms are highly trained home visitors who provide parenting and pregnancy coaching to young moms. Their main focus is to support moms as they set and achieve goals for themselves and their families.

“I’m very impressed with New Moms and how they turned this around,” said Oak Park Family Support Specialist Shree Topps, who works closely with many homeless moms. “We got access to all this technology so fast. It’s just been amazing how we hit the ground running.”

Initially, transitioning to virtual support was difficult and frustrating, said Chicago Family Support Specialist Andrea Serna, who also works with many homeless families.

“A lot of my work is based on that relationship with the families and really being there in-person, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment to doing things over the phone or doing things over Zoom,” Andrea said. “But I’ve been really impressed with how my participants have been so flexible with communicating virtually.” 

The Family Support teams from New Moms’ Chicago and Oak Park locations have banded together to share creative “tips and tricks” for virtually engaging with participants and to support each other during this time. 

The need for basic necessities is critical at this time. New Moms continues to provide diapers and formula to our participants and is working to keep our food pantry stocked for families in our 58 apartments. Thank you to everyone who has offered their support with both financial and in-kind donations.

“We’re all tied together in this mission,” Katie said. “We’re all together working to support families and that hasn’t changed. If anything that’s become more focused — crystal clear.”

In addition to regular check-ins, the Family Support team has also been delivering cleaning supplies, food, and basic essentials to participants. These items are being generously donated by the New Moms community. Anyone can purchase items off our Amazon Essentials and Food Pantry wishlists and it will be sent directly to New Moms for distribution to families.

Shree said Family Support Specialists have also been connecting participants with mental health resources like Thrive, a counseling center that offers tele-counseling.

“A couple of them want to know who they can talk to just to talk through this and get the help they need to deal with it,” Shree said.

During this time, the Family Support Specialists said they are encouraged most by the resilience of their participants. Despite the global crisis, many young moms are still looking on the “bright side.”

“They’re really focusing on parenting, focusing on that parent-child relationship,” Andrea said. “It’s just great to see them interact with their children and still find the positive sides of things.”

Virtual home visits and supply drop-offs will continue for the foreseeable future to keep everyone safe and healthy.

As we all continue to weather this storm, we ask that you keep New Moms’ staff and participants in your thoughts and prayers. Check out our website here for ongoing updates on New Moms’ response to COVID-19.