While the community is trying to flatten the COVID-19 curve with lockdowns and 100% virtual learning, the Giving Grace network has seen those who were already struggling only deepen into their hardships.
The CDC characterizes the COVID-19 pandemic as a serious global health threat. CDC goes on to say that parents are understandably concerned about the safety of their children at school in the wake of COVID-19. As families and policymakers make decisions about their children returning to school, it is important to consider the full spectrum of benefits and risks of both in-person and virtual learning options.
Aside from a child’s home, no other setting has more influence on a child’s health and well-being than their school. The in-person school environment does the following:
• provides educational instruction;
• supports the development of social and emotional skills;
• creates a safe environment for learning;
• addresses nutritional needs; and
• facilitates physical activity.
Giving Grace is a local group that provides support for individuals in the community with acute needs, along with support for ongoing community programs. I asked them to tell us more about who they are and what they are seeing.
Giving Grace network
It would be naive of us to think that all of DeKalb’s children are safer at home, and that remote learning is a fine substitute for an in-person option. There are many instances (hundreds? thousands?) that this is just not the case. The most vulnerable population are those who are in living conditions in DeKalb that simply do not provide for remote learning. There are organizations that help support this population, and one is the Giving Grace network.
The Giving Grace network primarily serves persons in our Atlanta communities that have acute needs which threaten them with displacement and the loss of meaningful connections. The goal is to ensure they can maintain a healthy, secure presence in the community to give them the best chance of success moving forward. Their efforts are geared toward single-parent families, persons experiencing homelessness, and the extremely poor. Their approach is simple:
• The network provides financial or in-kind assistance for members of the community facing acute emergency needs.
• A support and sustainability plan is created with the community-member to help move them beyond the need.
• Network members and/or staff continue to walk alongside the community-member to offer support and encouragement.
During this time of school buildings being closed, the Giving Grace network has seen those who were already struggling only deepen into their hardships. Here are some of the examples that were shared with me that they have personally witnessed:
Countless families are not aware that school systems are giving out food, computers, etc. There is a gap in communication or lack of.
One family is not sending their kids back to school until they are in person, mom does not know anything about computers or even how to turn it on.
One family has a child that was suspended the week that school went to virtual learning in March. His mother has not been able to get him online since March, and no one at his local school has been able to help him.
Special education high school student who struggles to read the computer screen.￼￼￼ Her mom has to print off everything so that she can join in. On weeks her mother cannot afford computer ink, she’s not able to participate.￼￼￼
Mom with three kids works at a daycare. She has to bring all three kids with her to work. She’s only able to assist them on her break. If they have a problem, they just have to sit and wait￼￼.
Mom works an hourly job. In order to keep her job, she has to pay for a learning pod each week which is $150. She only makes $300 a week. She has no idea how she’s going to pay rent this month.￼￼￼
We have a transient family who is either staying with friends or in a hotel nightly. ￼ They don’t have regular access to Internet.￼ They login when they are able to.
A family currently has no power.￼￼￼ No power means no Internet!
Mom doesn’t know how to read. Her kids have not attended school since March. ￼
An elementary school child is supposed to read several books a week. This family owns one book. Getting for the library would require Marta. Mom barely has enough money to pay bills, much less Marta fare.￼￼￼
Family lives in a hotel. Wifi is an additional charge each week. Mom barely makes enough money to pay the hotel rooms, much less Wi-Fi.
￼Homeless family staying in the shelter.￼￼￼ They have to be out each morning by six. Library‘s are closed￼. Coffee shops will only allow you to come in if you’re purchasing something. These children are only able to attend school when mom can find free Wi-Fi.￼￼￼￼￼￼ They are continuing the homeless cycle because mom cannot get a job when the kids are not in school.￼￼
There is a home with multiple families living there. There are nine school-age children. The free Wi-Fi does not have the bandwidth to support nine children on the computer every day. This family is having to choose daily which kids attend class.
Those who insist that schools are unsafe are not seeing the bigger picture. They are fine with remote learning because ‘their child is doing great!’ My hope is that people are able to see beyond their bubbles and understand that their actions are harming those who have no voice.
To donate to Giving Grace, you can do so here, and note that you’d like the donation to go towards those in need of remote learning support:
To follow Giving Grace’s facebook page and find other ways you can support the needs of the community they support, you can do so here: