Serving Families Creatively in Today’s Reality

James  R. Mason, President & CEO Beech Acres Parenting Center

Beech Acres Parenting Center was created on a foundation of hope in response to a public health crisis over 170 years ago…a cholera epidemic which left hundreds of local children orphaned. Since then, we continue to evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of children, parents, and families. The adaptive DNA of this organization is up for the challenge presented by today’s unprecedented pandemic. Despite the difficulties faced by so many, we believe every parent and family have the strength to persevere…and we are here to support them every step of the way.

Life has fundamentally changed since March 16 when Governor DeWine issued the statewide stay-at-home order. Over 1 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and more than 60,000 have died so far. Our health care system is severely tested. Nearly half of Americans have either lost a job or had wages reduced. Schools and daycare centers are closed, which increases pressure within families confined to their houses or apartments. Lacking outlets, family stress increases as those parents who are able to work remotely struggle to balance work and family responsibilities. Those parents who lost their jobs have even greater stress, as they worry about how to pay for basic needs like rent, food, and utilities.

Every business, government, and community benefit organization such as Beech Acres Parenting Center must respond quickly to ensure its financial sustainability. We must adapt our services to meet the changing needs of people. Everyone will need to prepare for a new reality once the virus is tamed. That will surely happen someday…the sooner the better!

Parents & Children

Parents have perhaps experienced the most dramatic change. Now they are not only parents but teachers, nurses, entertainers, recreation leaders, and daycare providers. Many are juggling this new “normal” while working from home or struggling with the burden of a furlough or job loss. Stress and anxiety for parents and their children are at an all-time high.

Beech Acres team members have proactively reached out to 764 parents of kids in our partner schools to see if their basic food and shelter needs are met, and how they are managing the stress. Our aim is always to assess the impact of rising stress and intervene early before it leads to bad outcomes like emotional or physical abuse in the family.

Ironically, during these highly stressful times, reports of child abuse to local hotlines like 241-KIDS in Hamilton County, have declined nearly 40%. That’s why we creatively reach out to many families by using phone calls, text messages, and video chats. We support, teach, and access community resources for more than 50 parents in our Parent Enrichment Program (PEP) and over 100 grandparents and other kin caregivers raising a loved one’s child. Children in these families are particularly vulnerable due to the additional long-term high-stress levels already experienced by their parents and kin caregivers.

Additionally, we are expanding our longest-running service, Foster Care, in anticipation of increased referrals in the near future. There is a growing need for safe, loving homes for children who suffer from child abuse or neglect. We are pleased that 98 prospective foster parents have signed up for upcoming training sessions which we will be facilitating online for the first time. Our team continues to support 115 licensed foster parents, caring for 105 children. There is still a need for loving foster parents! Please visit our website to learn more.

Finally, we are applying our adaptive DNA by rapidly implemented telehealth solutions in most of our service areas. This technology has enabled us to continue meeting the mental health needs of more than 600 children in the schools we serve via video counseling. Once again, the losses and uncertainty they are experiencing during the COVID outbreak are piled on top of their already vulnerable condition. Video technology allows us to be there when they need us.

Technology has also enabled us to reach over 3000 parents in greater Cincinnati and beyond through a variety of social media tools. By partnering with parenting experts on our staff and medical professionals in the community, we provide resources on our blog for talking to your children about the COVID-19 pandemic. We also post daily activities for families, Monday-Friday at 10:00 am.

Teachers

Not surprisingly, teachers are also experiencing considerable upheaval in their lives. Teachers love to teach, to be in the classroom with their students, to explore their subject matter, and develop their students’ strengths. That’s not easy for any teacher to do over a Zoom call, especially when her own children are calling for her from another room in her house.

The Character Effect™, our evidence-based social and emotional learning program continues to meet the personal self-care needs of teachers. We are reaching out to 200 teachers each week with inspirational texts encouraging mindfulness and self-care. Our curriculum is available to all those teachers, giving them access to strength-based lessons for thousands of tri-state students on our The Character Effect website. Additionally, we have hosted virtual professional development sessions for 120 paraprofessionals.

Pediatricians

While we are no longer able to be “right down the hall” in pediatric offices served by Parent Connext™, we are still helping parents associated with those practices connect to resources and find clear next steps in their parenting journeys. We have reached out to 650 families about our individual parent coaching sessions as well as weekly group meetings.

We now offer complimentary parent coaching to all TriHealth employees serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are offering that same free coaching to over 100,000 TriHealth patients as well, to help them navigate the additional parenting challenges they face during these trying times.

Our Pledge

The adaptive DNA of this 171-year-old institution is as challenged now as ever. The unanticipated stress of today and great uncertainty of tomorrow have aroused fear throughout our community and beyond. Beech Acres is as committed as ever to the parents, children, extended families, teachers, medical staff, and others we serve. We have moved quickly to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances while maintaining the core values that have sustained us over time. We have hope for the future and will continue to evolve with the needs of those we serve.

During this time of uncertainty, we draw on the unique strengths of our staff, board, and foster parents, and the teamwork among us, to soothe today’s wounds and work towards a better tomorrow. We are very grateful for our community partners and the thousands of generous donors who ensure we have the resources to sustain our vital mission now and in the future.