Even with the immense challenges facing us, we have already seen amazing examples of community solidarity right here in Waterloo Region. The
Kitchener Public Library
is using their 3D printers to make Personal Protective Equipment for the hospitals. A
list of local businesses
was created by community members to highlight those places that are selling gift cards to try and keep the lights on and their staff employed. And children created messages of hope in chalk on neighbourhood sidewalks (above right - photo credit Stephanie Rozek).
This reflects what we already know – this is a barn-raising community, an entrepreneurial community,
a caring community
Globe & Mail published an article
that highlighted what child welfare workers already know regarding the impact social isolation may have on the incidence of child abuse.
Families are under stress right now and for many families that stress can include unstable income and poverty, precarious or overcrowded housing, limited coping skills, and a lack of networks of support. These factors combine to increase the risk to children.
Right now, families need support.
The most vulnerable are behind closed doors, away from the eyes of the community and the resources they need day to day. Schools are the single largest source of referrals to the Agency and for the time being, kids aren't attending class.
WE ARE COMMITTED TO KEEPING KIDS SAFE
We know you share these concerns about children in our community.
We want to inform you of the steps our colleagues at Family & Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region are taking to ensure children will still be protected during this time. As an essential service and part of the Region's Pandemic Response Team, here are ways that Agency staff and child welfare agency partners are continuing to serve children, youth, and families during this challenging time:
- The Agency will continue to respond to reports of concerns about the maltreatment of children. At the same time, we are committed to actively working towards reducing the risk of transmission of the COVID19 virus. The Agency and Foundation are implementing the guidance provided by the Federal and Provincial governments and our local Health Unit. Face-to-face access visits and meetings are also canceled, but we are using alternatives such as Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts.
- The Family Centre (65 Hanson) in Kitchener and the Agency office at 168 Hespeler Road in Cambridge are closed to visitors. The majority of our staff will be working from home. The office at 200 Ardelt in Kitchener will be open, with a skeleton staff. Any visitors will be screened before being permitted to enter.
- The Agency will continue to support families and children in the community when needed with appropriate precautions. Any essential in-person meetings that are held will follow social distancing guidelines and when necessary staff will utilize PPE (personal protective equipment).
- The Agency Crisis Management team is meeting daily to respond to the pandemic and to incorporate any new information or recommendations.
If you are concerned about a child or youth under age 18,
staff are on duty and available to help. Please call 519-576-0540 x2
to reach an intake worker.
If there is an immediate risk of harm to a child or youth under 18,
call 911 directly.
HOW THE FOUNDATION IS HELPING FAMILIES
The Foundation is working closely with frontline staff at the Agency to determine what the immediate needs of families are and how we can best address those needs. The main worries families have are being able to meet the day to day needs of their children – food, clothing, shelter – and we are making funds available to help families, many of whom were already experiencing poverty, unemployment, and precarious housing.
In addition, many families lack toys, games, puzzles and other activities so we are supporting families with activities for their children that foster age-appropriate development and connection.
We are also connecting with passionate donors and the groups that had planned events so we can offer help to create online alternatives that will connect people while respecting the need for social distancing. In this way we hope to be able to continue to meet the emerging needs of the children, youth, and families.
By working together, we hope we can limit the impact of this crisis on our most vulnerable families and community members.
We know it’s critical that we keep the lines of communication open as the crisis unfolds and we learn more. Make sure to follow us on social media for the most up-to-date information (links below).
We will be in touch again soon and hope that you and your families and loved ones stay safe and well.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out at any time. We are Stronger Together.