Point of View (Palm Beach Post): COVID-19 demands more of community aid groups

By Lisa Williams-Taylor, CEO of Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County

More than three months ago, COVID-19 turned life in Palm Beach County upside down. Schools and businesses closed their doors. Families lost jobs. Commonplace activities – a trip to the library, a walk on the beach – were canceled. And so were the many intimate, important, in-person conversations between staff at programs funded by Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County (CSC) and the thousands of families we serve.

So what do you do when you can’t visit a family in the hospital while they cradle their newborn? Can’t assess a child’s development while they play in their living room? Can’t hold a teen’s hand while they share their struggles? You pivot.

Within hours of the shelter-at-home order, CSC staff ensured our providers had the technical tools needed to reach families by laptop, phone or text. At a virtual emergency meeting, our Council agreed to continue funding all contracted agencies, even as they reimagined how they deliver services. The result: 100% of our funded programs continue to provide the services our families desperately need. In addition, CSC partnered with nine other local funders to establish a COVID-19 Relief & Recovery application for local nonprofits. To date, CSC has bolstered more than 35 local agencies with $650,000-plus in relief funds for food, basic needs, mental health services and PPE related to the COVID crisis. CSC also has set aside funding to provide internet access to local families, so children can benefit from cultural and education resources online.

All in, CSC is providing more than $1 million for COVID-19 relief so our families get the help they deserve.

The results of this rapid response have been incredibly moving:

– A family support worker with our Healthy Beginnings Nurses program, funded by CSC and administered by the county Health Department, spent hours on the phone, speaking to numerous family members and neighbors in an attempt to connect by Skype with a pregnant teenager originally from Guatemala who doesn’t speak English, or Spanish very well.

– A developmental specialist from Growing Smart, funded by CSC and administered by HomeSafe, used video conferencing to watch a baby pick up and eat Cheerios – assessing her fine motor skills. At the end of the session, the specialist, mother and baby all clapped in celebration.

– Lois’s Food4OurKids, a weekend program funded by CSC and administered by the Palm Beach County Food Bank, typically provided bags of food to 575 students at seven elementary schools. They, too, pivoted in an instant – more than doubling their services by partnering with local agencies to disburse bags to more than 1,300 children every weekend at additional sites, and even dropping bags at families’ doorsteps.

These are just a few examples of the amazing work our staff, providers and partners are doing during this challenging time. The last three months have proven Palm Beach County’s resilience, a strength we are proud to be a part of. No matter what the future holds, Children’s Services Council will be here for our community – so all of our children have the opportunity to grow up healthy, safe and strong.

About Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County

The Council is a local, special-purpose government created by Palm Beach County voters in 1986 and reauthorized in 2014. For more than 30 years, it has provided leadership, funding, services and research on behalf of the county’s children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong.

If you have questions related to Children's Services Council of Palm Beach County and/or media inquiries, please contact Shana Cooper, Public Information Officer.