As stay-at-home orders became a reality and our program’s physical locations were closed, our family support professionals rolled up their sleeves and got creative to ensure services continue across Massachusetts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families are facing increased stress, creating an urgent need for guidance and support.
Home visitors from Healthy Families Massachusetts, our in-home parent coaching program, are using video chat technology to continue meeting regularly with families. Young parents in the program have reported that their home visitors are, in many cases, the only people who have continued to reach out with help and guidance during the pandemic.
Our Family Centers and Parenting Education and Support Programs also moved playgroups and parenting support groups online, using tools such as Facebook Live and Zoom. This gives parents the opportunity to connect with other parents from home while also giving their kids opportunities for stimulation and social engagement. We’ve adopted a similar virtual strategy for training groups and our Fathers and Family Network by offering trainings via Zoom to family support professionals throughout the state.
In response to growing concerns of unreported child abuse and neglect and increased parental stress, we began offering all parents free, full access to All Babies Cry, including videos with practical advice from experts, parents, and grandparents, at allbabiescry.org with the access code “COVID19.” Topics include: what’s normal about crying, comforting your baby, self-care tips for parents, and how to cope with colic. We have seen a 300% increase in use.
Our comprehensive parenting website, onetoughjob.org, added new articles with timely topics, such as “Co-Parenting During COVID-19” and “Staying Sane (with Kids!) During COVID-19” to support parents who are struggling to manage the stress and isolation caused by the pandemic. We also launched a new, regularly updated section with a wide variety of helpful information, tips, and links to resources for parents to use during this time, resulting in a 387% increase in Massachusetts visitors to the site.
Parents need our support during this crisis. By continuing to connect virtually with families and guide parents toward healthy parenting skills, we are continuing our mission to stop child abuse and neglect.