On Tuesday, January 11, the League of Women Voters invited the Collaboration for Early Childhood to speak at their Second Tuesday Civic Forum. Emily Norman, the Collaboration’s Early Learning Coordinator teamed up with Michelle Howell, Program Supervisor from the Partnering with Parents Home Visiting Program in Oak Park and River Forest to present on behalf of the Collaboration for Early Childhood. From Pillars Community Health, Michelle Halm, Director of Buddy’s Place, and Kim Stephens, Director of Constance Morris House shared a look into their work and how it has shifted due to COVID-19.

Buddy’s Place is Pillar’s Community Health’s childhood bereavement program. Expressing grief and creating space for children to grieve is more important now than ever. Some studies estimate that more than 140,000 children in the U.S. have lost a parent or a grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. Because COVID-19 disproportionally affects racial and ethnic minority groups, the children who are mourning the loss of a loved one from COVID-19 also come from racial and ethnic minority groups. Michelle’s presentation showed the many different ways grief and loss can look in children. It is filled with many links and great resources. You can reference it here.

Kim Stephens talked about Constance Morris House, a safe space for victims of domestic violence. Before the pandemic, one in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence. That is a staggering statistic, and it can have a negative effect to the young children in families where this occurs. (You can learn more about the effects of domestic violence on young children here.) With increased isolation due to COVID-19 and people working from home, Kim explained, many victims are unable to leave dangerous situations safely. She also talked about how a lot of interaction has shifted to a virtual format to keep clients safe from COVID-19.

Emily Norman and Michelle Howell spoke about what they are hearing from early childhood program directors and families enrolled in home visiting programs. You can see the full presentation here.

The conversations across agencies explored the many ways that the pandemic has impacted young children’s mental health, social development and school progress. This is an extremely difficult time for so many families. We remain hopeful because our community has many services available to provide support to those who need it, and many people who are working to connect people to those services. We are grateful to the League of Women Voters of Oak Park & River Forest for convening such a wonderful conversation!

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