Basic Needs, Social Connection Rise to the Top for Home Visiting Families

By: Jess Berthold, Communications Director, First 5 Association of California

One of the biggest differences in providing home visiting services now compared to before COVID-19 is ensuring families have their basic needs met, says Kim Sangha, a home visitor with Healthy Families Sutter County. Sometimes that means taking matters into her own hands.

“Our local food bank receives items from local stores, like boxes of diapers that are a little broken and they can’t sell. I go there once a week to see what they have that my families could use, and I drop it on their doorsteps. That’s something new, because before my clients could just go stand in line and get supplies and food, but now it’s harder for them, with kids home from school and public transportation being more unsafe,” Ms. Sangha said. “I don’t want my client with a three-month-old baby riding two buses, when I have a county vehicle I can use.”

Another difference is helping families cope with the additional stress posed by the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders, whether the stress comes from financial pressure, living situations, or concerns about becoming ill.

“I have one parent who decided to have her mom come live with her during the shelter-in-place so she could still go to her job. She’s an essential worker at a grocery store, but she couldn’t find infant care. So she, the baby, and the mom are all in one bedroom and a roommate is in the other bedroom. The roommate keeps having friends come in and out of house, so she has to keep using a lot of wipes and cleaning behind them,” Ms. Sangha reports. “It’s a lot of extra stress.”

Ms. Sangha spends a lot more time checking in with how her clients are feeling, trying to encourage them to take care of themselves. She suggests they journal about their feelings, and has ordered adult coloring books to help them cope with their stress.

“I tell my clients to text me, and some of them are reaching out because they feel isolated and lonely,” Ms. Sangha said. “They don’t have a lot of social support, and they were going to parenting classes to meet other moms, but those have stopped. Sometimes they share pictures and videos of their babies; they just really want to connect.”