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#CHWW2020: Connecting families and children in Ottawa with supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

Centretown CHC: Jennifer and Vanessa loading up supplies to bring to families living in a shelter

[Jennifer and Vanessa loading up supplies to bring to families living in a shelter. Photo supplied]

Submitted by the Centretown CHC Early Years Team

Throughout Community Health and Wellbeing Week 2020, we will bring your stories of #PowerInCommunity from across the province. Today, Vanessa Graham and Emily Doolan from the Centretown CHC Early Years team in Ottawa write about the supports they've adapted to serve children and families during the pandemic.

The Early Years and EarlyON team at Centretown Community Health Centre in Ottawa is committed to providing families and children with daily support and services. As a team, we work collaboratively with other teams at the centre to ensure families have access to what they need to navigate community resources or any challenging circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families are living through a time of uncertainty, overwhelm, stress and isolation all while trying to keep their children well and happy. The team has provided families with information about early childhood development, parenting support and education, outreach services and service navigation. The following highlights how the team has successfully responded to helping families and children during the developing global pandemic.

The Early Years and EarlyON team was actively engaged in supporting CCHC’s pandemic plan. The team diligently assessed where the needs were in the community and began right away to offer their support. Emergency baby supplies were made easily accessible for families to obtain on a monthly basis. These supplies included diapers, wipes, breastfeeding supplies and clothing. In addition, Early Learning Activity Kits were put together with the focus to support at home learning for families. As summer arrived, Physical Activity Kits were created in order to promote outdoor physical activity for families all while practicing social distancing measures. Deliveries were made for families who were faced with barriers on accessing emergency supplies during the early stages of the pandemic. For continuous family connection, the team completed wellness calls to provide virtual support and navigation for services across Ottawa.

[Emily and Vanessa welcoming clients at the self-serve baby weight station]

The services that were deemed essential for community members with young children were adapted and implemented. Breastfeeding support, as well as, pre and postnatal support was continued by telephone to ensure new and expecting mothers had the necessary expertise readily available for them. The Welcome Baby Prenatal Nutrition Program continued providing support to the participants, which included a delivery of a monthly healthy snack pack and a weekly phone call to each participant. With an increased demand for baby weight services, the team offered a weekly self-serve baby weight station at the centre. To meet the needs of the community, the Early Years and EarlyOn programs and services are being offered by telephone support, virtual programming or in person. 

During this evolving time, the Early Years and EarlyOn team continues to utilize their adaptability skills in order to provide quality services to meet the unique needs of families. The team has connected with over 100 families and continues to build relationships with community members in hopes to provide a sense of security and comfort for all families. The ultimate goal for the Early Years and EarlyOn team is to foster healthy and happy children and families.

[Isabelle and Emily packing healthy snacks, activity kits and supplies. Photos supplied]

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