In a time of social distancing, ISANS’ Care for Newcomer Children (CNC) Program has embarked on a journey of collaboration, innovation, flexibility, and growth. CNC is a program that has traditionally focused on direct, in-person service delivery. Like so many others, the ISANS CNC program has responded rapidly to its new work environment and the settlement needs of children and families during the COVID-19 world pandemic and is now approaching service delivery in new ways.
The following is a series of initiatives that ISANS’ CNC Program is undertaking, with a focus on growing as a service and continuing to provide support to clients during this challenging time.
Continuing professional development
- CNC has developed an online training package for early childhood education staff, utilizing accessible on-demand webinars, tutorials, and websites. In this training, staff complete a weekly log, including learning reflections from each training module, and engage in professional development discussions through weekly Skype meetings. Staff also contribute recommendations for training, which are in turn incorporated into the training schedule.
- Topics for training have thus far included childhood trauma and trauma-informed practices, child abuse and protection, health and safety, behavior guidance, special needs, early childhood development, curriculum planning, play, cultural competence, and working with newcomers. (See Resources for CNC Staff Training at the end of this article.)
Supporting the wider organization with delivering key messages to clients
- The early childhood education staff at ISANS reflect the diverse cultures and languages of the children and families who enter the CNC program. Early childhood staff are therefore playing a critical role in delivering key messages and gathering information on behalf of ISANS through phone calls to clients in their first language, where needed. With a constantly evolving situation, phone calls take place in a timely manner on a large-scale. Phone calls to clients have provided a welcome opportunity for clients to remain connected with their ISANS community.
Check-in phone calls to families in the ISANS CNC program
- The ISANS CNC program is reaching out to its families through check-in phone calls using a trauma-informed, family-centered approach. This approach is integral to ISANS’ work with families, guided by an empowerment model of practice. We recognize the interconnectedness of family members’ experiences and family strengths as a whole unit. Staff celebrate families during these phone calls, providing a friendly, familiar ear. Phone calls maintain this supportive connection and allow families to guide staff through their needs and goals at this time. Based on these conversations, CNC staff are able to provide relevant information, support, and helpful family activities. Connecting with other services, the CNC team also makes referrals as needed to respond to family needs. At this time, this connection continues to be an inspirational aspect of our service delivery for both staff and families: it gives families the opportunity to discuss their concerns, but also celebrate their families.
Contributing to a Family and Wellness Support Group through the ISANS
- As many clients use Facebook to stay connected and access information, the CNC set up a Family and Wellness Support Group for ISANS clients’ families with children. This support group is another way we are providing support to our CNC community, which will continue beyond this time of social distancing. This cross-team initiative employs the expertise of ISANS’ Newcomer Wellness Program, Family Support Program, and the CNC Program. Daily posts include topics on wellbeing, parenting, and activities for children and families at home.
- Early childhood staff have also developed videos to share encouraging messages, stories, songs, and demonstrate activities. By posting these videos on the Family and Wellness Support Group page, staff are able to use yet another tool to maintain a connection with many of our children who are in the CNC program.
Although the current world situation is stressful and challenging, it has motivated ISANS’ CNC Program staff to develop program expertise, service provision, and collaboration using new mediums to continue our services to families and their children.
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