Professional Resource

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An Outbreak of Creativity: Taking Action to Stay Connected With Children, Families, and Community During COVID-19

Jun 7, 2021

Dawn M. Curtin and Linda L. Wilson, The Enola Group, Inc. Morganton, North Carolina

Abstract

Early Head Start’s intensive home- and center-based comprehensive services include proven significant impacts on young children’s development and on parent’s knowledge and behavior. However, how does a program continue delivery of supports and resources in a global health crisis? This article presents an overview of The Enola Group Early Head Start program’s creative response to the challenges and opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors provide examples of practices used by administrators, in-home educators, center-based teachers, and others to support children, families, each other, and the communities in which they live.

The Enola Group Early Head Start (TEG EHS) program has successfully supported infants and toddlers and their families, and expectant women and their families for more than 18 years. The program serves Alexander, Burke, and Caldwell counties in western North Carolina. TEG EHS uses the evidence-based Early Head Start home-based model and center-based model (Head Start ECLKC, 2018) to serve 200 enrolled children and families. TEG EHS uses the Creative Curriculum Teaching Strategies GOLD (Teaching Strategies, 2011) to ensure and assess that children are meeting early learning goals and objectives. The program also uses a capacity-building parenting curriculum that focuses on parenting competence, confidence, and enjoyment.

This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic presented our program with new challenges and opportunities. Staff members absorbed a plethora of information, responded to ever-changing guidelines, and developed new strategies to deliver needed services and resources to children, families, and the communities we serve. The challenges we faced included closing our early childhood education centers for 2 months; suspending in-person home visits, socializations, group parenting education, and community field trips; and discontinuing in-person community recruitment activities and networking events.

The frequency and quality of interactions with children and families are essential components of any Early Head Start program. These interactions have an impact on outcomes for child and family. We had to shift our actions as teachers, in-home educators, and program leaders. We responded quickly to families who faced losing child care, had food shortages, lost jobs, or reduced work hours, and were disconnected from social supports and resources. We also discovered that many TEG EHS employees and their families were experiencing similar stressful situations during this time. This article describes some of the needs in our program and the ways we addressed the needs created by the pandemic.

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