By Katie Wilson, NY program director and Cristina Pachano, clinical director
These past few weeks have been a challenge for us all. We here at Parenting Journey have been hard at work adjusting our programming to bring our services into the homes of our parents and families at a time when they need it the most.
At Parenting Journey, we re-evaluated the “how and when” of program delivery in a rapidly changing environment; And it was critical that we centered family voices in our program decision making.
As such, our program team contacted every participant that was registered for our groups, first, to check in and assess their current needs, and then to understand their ability to access virtual services: technology, internet, private spaces, time, child care etc.
Beyond the theories, techniques, and approaches that are integrated into our work, the key to keeping our human services programs afloat during these times is personal relationship building.
And while it will be difficult to replicate the in-person group experience, Parenting Journey has a few tips and tricks to help facilitators lead productive groups virtually:
- Maintain frequent contact with group participants. Explore which virtual platforms (Google Hangouts, Zoom, text etc.) best fit the needs and access of your client, organization and fits your confidentiality and agencies’ state policies.
- Factor in the additional challenges of maintaining confidentiality while participating in a virtual group. Identify ways in which you will navigate any potential barriers, and factor them into the contract with the group i.e. asking participants if they have a private space to talk, suggesting the use of headphones, placing participants who are not speaking on mute, coming up with a procedure on what to do about interruptions etc.
- Recognize that this is an unsettling time for all of us. Take time to check in with clients, introduce mindfulness techniques, and use the group as a resource to support one another and create/maintain social connection. Always remember our common humanity– what affects you, affects me and we are all going through this together.
As a community, we will do our best to make the adjustments necessary to keep our parents and families safe and healthy during these uncertain times.
With the voices of the parents leading the way, Parenting Journey has enhanced our service delivery approach by providing parents and families in our upcoming groups with tablets and access to free Comcast Internet, varying the times groups convene (day, late afternoon and evening choices), and strategizing with parents about having this time for themselves while their children remain safe.
We are modifying our curriculum to meet the time parameters that our parents requested and are excited to be launching our Spring 2020 virtual groups the week of April 13.
If you want more information about the adjustments we are making to our programs, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.