On “Return to Learn” in 2020
Over last four months, closures, cancellations, and social distancing have been difficult and stressful for many parents and families. It has become apparent now more than ever how strongly we are wired for social connection.
We deeply understand the values our educational institutions bring to children and families. Schools not only providing resources and consistent education, they also provide many of the protective factors necessary to support kids. Our educators serve as mandatory reporters and supportive relationships for kids. Schools provide a source of food security for many families. Throughout the United States, calls reporting suspicions of child abuse have declined significantly over the last several months. Increased family stressors related to the pandemic have likely led to increased cases of abuse that have gone unnoticed due to social distancing measures.
Along with high quality education, schools also provide additional supports and resources for kids that ensure their health and safety. There are many difficulties placed on parents and teachers with our educational options in 2020. Children returning to school have experienced increased stress; and parents, teachers, and community members need to be prepared to meet their growing mental health needs. Schools also face additional challenges in ensuring uninterrupted service delivery (classroom support, counseling services, food services) with inconsistent educational settings.
We know now more than ever that our institutions don’t operate in a vacuum. In order for parents and families to be successful, our community needs to step up in important ways to support kids. Many students will not be in school buildings on a regular basis, limiting their access and awareness of supportive resources. This also limits the opportunity for teachers and support staff to provide an in-person assessment of a student’s social and emotional wellbeing. Community partners will also need to provide increased opportunity for parenting development programs to increase protective factors.
We continue to advocate for policy action that will support families; and for employers to support family-friendly practices including flex time, work from home accommodations, and to understand that schooling and daycare situations can change drastically with little notice.
And lastly, we know that the presence of one caring and supportive relationship can change the world for a child that needs extra support. We all can make a difference in supporting and caring for kids that have been through several stressful and uncertain months. The success of our community relies on each of us to build connections that will strengthen families and build happy and safe childhoods for our kids.