Throughout COVID-19, the Family Resource Centers (FRCs) in San Francisco have been diligent and dedicated to providing ongoing and material relief to the families in their communities. FRCs focus on partnering with families and parents during their most significant challenges, ensuring that they have the resources they need to care for their children and themselves. During COVID, these goals took on new meanings. Families found themselves navigating loss across facets of their lives. As people grew more isolated, mourned the loss in their communities, and dealt with the anxiety of keeping their families safe, many felt the complete loss of income.
As the pandemic changes took shape, the network of 26 FRCs in San Francisco sprang into action nearly overnight.
“[They were] talking with leaseholders on behalf of families, making wellness calls and singing to children over Zoom and Facetime, and gathering food and supplies to distribute for those most in need,” recalls Berta Hernandez, the Family Services Director at Instituto Familiar de la Raza.
In partnership with First 5 San Francisco, FRCs have distributed more than 37,000 ounces of formula, over 220,000 diapers, and approximately 28,000 household supplies and goods. In addition, they provided just under 800 deliveries of meals and groceries direct to families’ homes and allocated 2,433 gift cards and vouchers to allow for purchasing food, clothes, and basic household necessities.
While this alone is an incredible impact, these teams stopped at nothing to move city residents forward. For the entire duration of the pandemic, FRCs have provided 2,460 food pantry distributions a week. In addition, approximately 1800 families are receiving case management for connection to vital resources and socioeconomic stability – 200 more families than the annual 6-year average – and last summer, FRCs initiated a formal resource and referral system for families in quarantine.
Approximately 1000 homes of COVID-positive parents of babies and toddlers received formula, diapers, wipes, and baby food from FRCs during quarantine. Yet, while recovering and stopping the spread of COVID, these parents still had to be parents, and they were quite literally and suddenly cut off from all social and support networks. For many, the FRCs became their lifeline.
Parents of young children can tell you, 2020 was a year of isolation. Kids need social stimulation to maintain healthy levels of development, and parents need support to navigate the challenges of raising young children. However, quarantining could lead to learning loss, slow emotional development, and stress and loneliness for all family members. To combat this, Family Resource Centers provided small social groups, including playgroups for parents of young children, to reduce social isolation.
Since we first sheltered in place, FRCs have reached more than 6,800 parents and children through virtual workshops, playgroups, parent support groups, and family events. These groups supported children’s learning and development at home through hard times. They built much-needed relationships among parents that supported their health and happiness. Families consistently took advantage of the remote resources offered to them to stay engaged, connected, and learning about their child’s development.
Finally, when COVID struck, parents who had been on regular visitation schedules could not continue seeing their children mitigate the risk of contracting the virus for all. It was heartbreaking for both parents and children, but the safety of everyone depended on keeping households separate. When FRCs reintroduced child visitation procedures, some children had not seen their parents in person for nearly ten months. FRCs supported families in navigating the transitions to virtual visits and back to in-person visits, intending to minimize the challenges COVID brought to families and maintain connections between parents and their children.
The FRCs of San Francisco provided wraparound services that supported families in specific and comprehensive ways. We feel lucky to have been part of the system helping many families during such a wrenching time. Yet, we still have so much to give to support families and ensure children’s optimal development. Still, as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that the network of FRCs does everything possible to keep families and communities strong.