Several weeks ago, as we were all beginning to settle into this new reality of COVID-19 living, we put out a survey to the field to learn more about how providers of afterschool and youth-serving organizations were adapting to this brand new world. We have since been collecting stories shared with us on virtual field roundtables, through emails, on social media, in addition to the survey responses themselves. We have been so inspired by all of the ways that leaders in the field have been reaching youth and their families in positive ways, and by what they are doing to protect their staff and their positions during this time.
Normally, my monthly data digest blog series highlights data-driven evidence of the value of youth-serving programs or points out gaps/needs and accomplishments of the field. In the spirit of continuing to provide hard numbers that celebrate and critically analyze our work, here is a summary of what we know that is happening around the state. These are compiled from our survey data in addition to information we have received in narratives directly from providers, and from information from the Vermont’s Child Development Division (CDD) regarding currently known providers of essential care:
- We have information from 58 afterschool and youth-serving organizations around the state. This represents 17% of such organizations that we know about. They comprise a total of 199 individual sites, which is 45% of total known program sites around the state.
- Among those organizations, 48% of them are providing care to children of essential workers. The actual percentage among the state is perhaps significantly lower; the programs that are providing essential care are likely disproportionately represented among survey respondents. Check out this write-up on Bristol Elementary School’s essential care run by the expanded learning staff for Mount Abraham Unified SD.
- Two-thirds (66%) of programs that we have heard from in some way are providing virtual programming for children and youth. We highlighted TRSU After School program’s virtual programming in this guest post by director Venissa White.
- Sixty-nine percent (69%) of programs that we have heard from are providing support to families in some form or another. Certain programs are collaborating with their school districts or supervisory unions to distribute food. Others are reaching out with resources and crucial information. Among programs who are not currently reaching out to families in some way, some have explained that they are intentionally stepping back so as to not overwhelm families who are already inundated with virtual assignments and resources.
We are floored and proud to see that incredible amount of action that providers have embraced and stepped into over the past several weeks. They have made huge changes while experiencing unprecedented limitations. They have done so with fewer staff and/or uncertainty about their financial futures. They have embarked on new technological horizons and gained new skills, fast. They have become mask-makers, distanced-activity experts, and Zoom privacy-setting extraordinaires. We’re so proud of and inspired by them.
To be clear, we are in no way implying that programs that are not doing all or even any of these things are lacking in contribution to the pandemic response. We fully recognize that some organizations had no choice but to close completely, lay off or furlough staff, and are limited in ways that they can reach families and provide support. Program leaders more often than not have their own families and are adapting to quarantine-living, caring for family members, and/or homeschooling — very BUSY and stressful tasks on their own and also extremely helpful in the bigger picture of getting Vermont (and the country!) back on its feet. In short: we know you are ALL contributing in some way, and you are NOT alone.
Without a doubt, there are still challenges ahead. We look toward the coming months and know that summer will be different this year. How different? That remains to be seen. There are so many questions. Are we looking for more virtual programming (that doesn’t leave families feeling overwhelmed?) or more in-person care that can be expanded to accommodate more children and youth than just those of essential workers? To what extent can we do these things? How will they look?
But perhaps we can take consolation in knowing that we have over six weeks of experience in how to survive (and maybe on some good days, even thrive?) in this brand new world. We have practice in educating, creating, caring, playing, empowering, and evolving. We know it is possible. Wherever the future takes the field, Vermont Afterschool will be here to support you — with supporting data in tow.
What has your program been going through? Take our survey here: