Both CEHS staff and Lubbock families find strength in each other during uncertain times
From disrupted schedules to temporary closures, many have felt the impact caused by COVID-19, especially childcare service centers. For the Texas Tech Center for Early Head Start (CEHS) – an initiative of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Sciences – the impact meant closing the center and adjusting to a new way of serving families in the Lubbock community.
The CEHS serves 96 children aged six weeks to three years and their families, providing continuous and comprehensive child development and family support services. These services include year-round, full-day childcare, home visits to pregnant mothers and young families, nutritious meals, developmental and health screening, and parent education and support to qualifying families at no cost through federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Even with the center closed, services from the Center for Early Head Start haven't stopped. CEHS staff has adapted to current circumstances to continue their outreach.
Executive Director Stephanie Shine, Ph.D., explains that the center has adapted to working remotely, with teachers providing services to three to four families by checking in with them weekly about their needs and by providing support, guidance, and resources.
"We are able to provide infant formula and diapers to families, and teachers develop activity bags with teacher-made toys and learning materials for parents to use with their children," Dr. Shine said. "The home-made toys are highly creative and thoughtfully designed. Our staff also participates in online training, conferences, meetings, webinars, and book clubs."
When visiting children and their families, teachers can smile, wave, and speak with children virtually or at a distance when delivering supplies. However, their main goal is to continue facilitating parent-child interactions, whether that is through supplies or emotional support for families. Dr. Shine explains that a parent having someone to talk to can make all the difference, and the CEHS staff is dedicated to those the serve.
"We have learned that our staff is resilient, quick to respond, creative, hands-on, brave, and dedicated," Dr. Shine said. "They know our families well and have been extraordinarily responsive to them."
However, it isn't just the staff that has shown resiliency and compassion during this time, but also the families who are part of the Center for Early Head Start.
CEHS Family Support Manager Andrea Bewley says, even though they were immediately worried about many families, they have found them to be resourceful, positive, family, friend, and community-focused – helping each other as they can.
"All families who have requested items on our distribution list have been so immensely grateful and careful not to request more than their share," Andrea said. "A number of our families have asked that they not be included in the distribution because they are doing okay and want others with more need to receive these items. We have been reminded that all families have reserves of strength they can call on in challenging times."