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Reducing stress at home with targeted SEL supports

Reimagining spaces in community for families to access resources they value around social-emotional care for caregivers and children

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I am a.....

  • Collective impact initiative

Tell us about your idea

How might we increase support for young children and their families during times of isolation, stress and uncertainty – particularly for communities of color, immigrant communities and low-income families, who are disproportionately impacted by the economic and health effects of the pandemic?

In response to Covid-19, our county – like most others – closed schools, child care centers and local businesses to prevent the spread of the virus. Unemployment across the state increased by almost 15%, and total earnings for small business employees in our community shrunk by 56%. Interviews with families of young children, teachers, social workers and field experts serving communities indicate increased stress and anxiety, particularly for communities of color and low-income communities: caregivers are overwhelmed and feel unequipped to support learning at home; resources that are available aren’t easy to access or understand, and don’t keep children engaged; families are at increased risk for violence and abuse; and the existing stressors around food, rent and employment are exacerbated.

In response, a cross-sector community team designed a strategy aimed at providing just-in-time access to social-emotional health resources for families struggling with additional stress. Guided by community voice, the strategy will reimagine existing resources in communities – library book mobiles, free little libraries and food distribution sites – to infuse topic-based social-emotional materials and information about available community resources. Once it's safe to do so, we'll work with trusted partners to host socially distanced events in communities, with access to fun food like ice cream, to enable families and children to connect with peers in a stress-free setting and distribute social-emotional resources. These context- and place-based resources will be placed where families are already located. Packet topics and materials will change with each distribution, and each packet will have common components:

  • Self-care information for caregivers
  • Social-emotional activities for children
  • Local guides with updated community resources, including mental health support, food distribution and rent assistance
  • Children’s books for various age groups and languages that promote social-emotional health
  • Self-care supplies
  • Guide on how to structure learning at home, with details such as time on tasks, prompts, ideas and age-appropriate guidelines

The first prototype of this project will launch in early June with 10 families, and will focus on ensuring the materials are helpful for families. Based on feedback from the process and outcomes, including focus groups and interviews with the families, the team will adjust the strategy and pilot the idea again. Based on iterative feedback, the team will continue to iterate on prototypes in various locations, including food banks and neighborhood events. Along with two additional teams working on other strategies, the team hopes to improve just-in-time access to learning resources, basic necessities and social-emotional supports for 140 families with children 0-5 in two elementary school attendance zones.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

This team wants to leave behind the idea that learning starts at school, and that we as a community don’t have the ability to improve the system of early education and health supports for families and young children. We want to leave behind the idea that social-emotional learning curricula, both in community and at school, are a bonus – and not integral to supporting the whole child.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

This is a cross-sector team of community members that includes a school social worker, local parent, early learning expert, design thinking expert, library programming manager and former pediatrician. This team is part of Alamance Achieves, a collective impact initiative in Alamance County, NC that aims to improve education and health outcomes from cradle to career, and is part of a larger collaborative network specifically focusing on reducing barriers to kindergarten readiness for students in two elementary school zones.

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

Alamance County, North Carolina


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