Young Families Face Pandemic’s Ongoing Impact
Growing Up New Mexico finds new ways to help.
Maria and her family have experienced many challenges since the restrictions due to COVID-19 started over a year ago. Maria’s work schedule as a healthcare employee has become more demanding. Her three young children have been home full-time, some with online schoolwork. Her husband was laid off and has a health condition that puts him at high risk if he gets sick.
Katie is now working full-time from home. The daycare for her 2-year-old twins has closed. With no family nearby, Katie and the children have been isolated at home. Katie can’t access her former support network of a babysitter, a friend who helped watch the kids occasionally, or the twin’s dad, an essential worker who doesn’t live with them.
Carlos and his family live in a small home. He and his wife, their two children and her parents, both 80 years old all live together under one roof. Both Carlos and his wife are essential workers, exposed during the height of the pandemic to hundreds of people per day. Carlos tested positive for COVID. His whole family got sick, and his father-in-law ended up in the hospital.
Names and identifying details of these families have been changed to protect their privacy, but their situations are representative of a wide range of families we serve at Growing Up New Mexico. While the health and economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all our community, low-income families with children from birth through age 5 are among those who have felt the impact most acutely. A significant percentage of these families are multi-generational households. Challenges families are facing because of COVID-19 include loss of income, unemployment, hunger, lack of childcare, decreased access to behavioral health resources and housing instability.
In response, last spring we established a COVID Relief Fund to help meet immediate needs of the families in our programs. Our donors mobilized and raised nearly $80,000, all designated for emergency support for families and home-based child care providers experiencing ongoing struggles.
At Growing Up New Mexico, we are committed to the health, education and success of children. We are driven by the importance of the first five years, as proven by multiple disciplines including brain science and attachment theory. Our work has evolved over the years, and we are now seeing the exponential benefit of offering multi-generational support to the family that surrounds a small child.
This year, we launched a new family coaching program: Bridges to Opportunity (BTO). BTO helps families navigate short-term challenges in order to set and reach long-term goals. Families enrolled in the program can turn to the Family Stability Fund for rent assistance, utility payments, food, warm clothing and other urgent expenses.
Through these programs, Maria and her family have received free food distribution and virtual learning opportunities for their 4-year-old, who attends the Early Learning Center at Kaune. The teachers delivered learning materials to their front door and instructions about learning in nature and with music. They meet with their teachers and other students through their online learning platform.
Katie continues to receive home visiting, although now virtual. Her home visitor, who has been coming to them since the twins were born, is helping Katie manage the stress of being isolated at home with her two young children. Katie’s home visitor has been her primary support during this challenging time.
During the pandemic, Growing Up New Mexico has remained committed to placing resources in the hands of our families. Though we have had to adjust quickly and radically, our programs have remained fully operational with no stoppage in services, including:
- Transitions to virtual home visits for families in our Great Start and First Born Home Visiting Programs.
- Limited in-person child care and pre-K for families enrolled at our Early Learning Center.
- Implementation of virtual pre-K curriculum and learning opportunities for families enrolled at our Early Learning Center.
- Distribution of PPE to home-based child care providers in Santa Fe and Rio Arriba Counties.
- Emergency financial relief for families enrolled in our programs.
- Weekly food distribution for families enrolled in our programs.