Despite an ongoing pandemic and the subsequent virtual society that has evolved, new parents and newborn children still must have access to necessary and adequate supports. In particular, for many new families, home visiting services already may be a distant or unknown resource, which is where Coordinated Intake (CI) workers come in. CI workers are responsible for providing education on and recruiting and enrolling families in a community’s home visiting programs.
For successful CI outreach and relationship-building, under normal circumstances, they need to hold a physical, visible presence in their community. However, the ongoing pandemic has forced CIs to undertake innovative strategies for reaching families, including joining community-wide efforts to address basic family needs. See below for a handful of approaches CIs took to continue connecting with families and encouraging home visiting participation.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, CIs had been experimenting with using social media platforms, such as Facebook, for promoting home visiting, but the stay-at-home order forced programs to rely on these platforms to a greater degree. In response, CIs have made their own CI program accounts and/or have intentionally worked with their organization to include CI related content in social content strategies on an ongoing basis. Although developing a social media presence takes time, these efforts are paying off at a rapid rate as programs have already started receiving referrals. Many CIs intend using social media outreach as strategy on an ongoing basis.
In addition to reimagining how to engage families for enrollment into home visiting, CIs have taken on additional responsibilities to connect families with basic needs. This dedication shows how CIs are willing to go above and beyond to serve families. For example, in the early stages of the pandemic, one CI, after hearing that a family’s refrigerator was broken, partnered with a local charity to connect them with a replacement. CIs have also organized community diaper drives, staffed food pantries and have even organized a virtual cooking class for families participating in home visiting programs. In this instance, the CI and home visiting program used money that had been allocated for food during in-person groups and partnered with the University of Illinois to provide the cooking demonstration. The event was a success—giving families the opportunity to connect and learn cooking and nutrition tips.
While CIs do not provide a direct service to the family, they connect families to resources and collaborate with partners to improve the system of supports offered to families. Their ingenuity and determination show the importance of continued infrastructure investments to the early childhood system. Without these investments, CIs would be unable to devise new strategies to support and empower families. The contributions of CIs and other local leaders engaging in community systems work show that it truly takes a village to raise a child.
This blog post is a component of Illinois Childhood Advocacy Week, a week of full of opportunities for providers, parents and caregivers to share with their legislators that early education is essential—now more than ever as we rebuild and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more.