Connection During COVID-19
In May 2019, after 40 years, we the Social Work team, were able to move our case files and office to the building inside the compound of the residential shelter, where we were able to join the rest of the multi-disciplinary team, which has always held office at the shelter. Moving the office brought us hope of improving services by being closer to the children and the rest of the multi-disciplinary team.
When COVID-19 caused CSC to call for employees to be locked-in, two of our three Social Workers (Mardy and Glaiza) were able to volunteer to stay inside. Mardy and Glaiza saw this as an opportunity to continue strengthening relationships with the children, work more closely with the multi-disciplinary team, and dig into some pending files. Cris, the remaining Social Worker, worked from home.
This pandemic posed challenges in case management. We knew it was important to keep the children involved. During the annual Summer Activity Program given to the children at CSC, we were given time to have a "Short Talk" or focused group discussion on an overview of challenges in case management. This was conducted recently at the Medical Building. It was attended by 32 children, ages 10 and above. It was facilitated by Mardy and Glaiza.
During the Short Talk, the kids were observed to be engaged, listening, and interested in the topic as they discussed how the challenges brought about by the pandemic affected their future. The children learned that physical birth family visits were not possible with government-imposed travel restrictions and health safety protocols of CSC, but that connecting with birth family as approved, was to be done through telecommunication.
It was a time to affirm that the we and multi-disciplinary team were doing our best to continue to provide for the holistic needs of the children by adapting and learning new ways to deliver services. This could be seen by Cris calling houseparents and children on the phone, counselors providing telecounseling, and therapy services adapted to be home-based until therapists could be admitted inside the shelter after quarantine. Other staff, such as the nurses and teachers, were also locked-in to ensure that the service was available to the children. The children were encouraged as the social workers shared that they (along with the multi-disciplinary team) were always looking at the individual needs of the child and advocating for their best interests.
The children understood the challenges we faced to complete some requirements due to travel restrictions or safety protocols and that this affected other professionals and offices working on their cases as well. However, the children were assured that we were proactive in lobbying for them. Social workers were in contact with government offices, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Inter-Country Adoption Board. We were learning new ways to submit Child Study Reports and to keep connected with other professionals and agencies involved in case management. True to being advocates, it is at the heart of the social work department to steward time and services available for the benefit of the child regardless of the circumstance.
The rising concern among the older children at risk of aging out of adoption was discussed. They expressed concern about what their future would hold and if that would be together with CSC. It was explained that CSC had prepared for this by teaching the children at the shelter life and independent living skills. The Independent Living Program was still a residential shelter but with more in-depth training on these skills to help them transition out to the community.
We can imagine the inner turmoil social workers and case workers, nationally and around the globe, have at this time being unable to physically reach their clients or offices. Our heart goes out to the children and families who have lost this connection and keep them in our prayers.
Thankfully, at CSC, we have the option to be together with the children. We have options that allow us to continue in our ministry commitment to provide children a temporary shelter and case management. Being with them has allowed us to further think out of the box and see areas we can continue to serve.
This pandemic has highlighted challenges and blessings in connection. As social workers in service to the children at CSC, the time to be with them has been an encouragement to us. We are blessed to see how the children are growing, coping, and learning during this season. We are grateful for this opportunity to be able to connect and be readily available to them.