LAS CRUCES, NM
Mid-March 2020 marked a new beginning and a new norm for MCH staff and families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, the pandemic brought on the closure of a normal office setting and the beginning of work through telecommuting. This prompted staff of MCH Family Outreach in Las Cruces to become creative and discover new ways to stay connected and adapt to the situation at hand. Staff were able to continue face-to-face home visits as needed while adhering to safety regulations mandated by the state, Centers for Disease Control and MCH. The Las Cruces staff quickly responded to the urgency of the pandemic and immediately sent informational packets to more than 120 families. The packets contained educational information regarding COVID-19 health precautions and a list of emergency resources in the community. Staff also included family activities and provided snacks. With limited face-to-face interactions, MCH staff began hosting parent education classes virtually to keep up with families’ needs and education. They also recognized several families struggling with food insecurities and made a decision to collaborate and volunteer with the local food bank to assist MCH families and individuals within the community struggling during the pandemic. In addition, the Las Cruces office worked alongside several organizations to promote Child Abuse Awareness Month and other prevention campaigns.
When MCH staff received word that in-person trainings and visits would be suspended due to COVID-19, MCH Family Outreach in Abilene was in the middle of its pre-service training for foster parents. There were four families in training and all were eager to finish up and become licensed. Thanks to the technology tools MCH provided, the training delivery was modified to utilize an online format. Although this was a change from the traditional approach, it was well received by participants and staff. With the online format the Abilene office was able to offer a variety of days and times to best meet the needs of the families in training. Abilene has now licensed three new foster-to-adopt families, two families have completed foster care training, and four families finished training in mid-June. Staff said although they miss the face-to-face interaction, it has been nice not needing to ask families to find childcare for training, or in some cases travel into Abilene.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Marvin United Methodist Church reached out to MCH Family Outreach in Tyler to see how they could help. Needs of foster families and other families served ranged from baby formula to cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Marvin UMC supported MCH by providing all supplies requested and more during three different deliveries. “We are so very blessed to have a partnership with a church that responds to our families’ needs in such a quick manner,” said Kristy George, director of MCH Family Outreach in Tyler. “We were able to get supplies dropped off to foster parents and clients through porch visits in order to help protect staff and clients alike during this unprecedented time. We are thankful to have partners in the community assist us with client needs as we continue to keep families together during this time.”
Matthew and Tonya have been foster parents with MCH for almost nine years. Since that time, they have fostered 21 children and provided respite care as a support to other MCH foster parents. Paisley was placed in their home as a voluntary placement in June 2015, when she was 3 days old. The couple started the adoption process for her in September 2019 with hopes of providing Paisley with a stable, loving home and making her a permanent part of their family. Although the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of uncertainty, Matthew and Tonya were able to continue with the process. “With everything that was going on it felt like things had slowed down tremendously,” Tonya said. She also stated that she was thankful to the birth mother for her selfless act of wanting to provide Paisley with a forever home by relinquishing her parental rights. Paisley’s adoption was finalized on May 2, 2020, through court proceedings conducted via Zoom. Paisley turned 5 years old on May 29. The couple also has three adult children and two minor children adopted from China in 2009 and 2010. Tonya expressed how grateful she and her husband are for the support of MCH during Paisley’s adoption process. Their case manager, Ramonia Ross, who has worked with the family since 2011, said, “Their love for children is amazing. Their commitment to making sure the child’s best interest is top priority is just one of the many things I admire about them. Whenever a child is placed in their home, I know they are going to ensure he or she feels loved and a part of their family.”