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Pandemic Shifts Methods of Caring for Children, Families


Thursday, March 11, 2021   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The COVID-19 pandemic has left many Missouri families financially insecure, especially those with children, and it's also changed the approaches of many groups who support them.

Missouri's rate of households with children who've lost income due to COVID-19 has been anywhere from 40% to 50% in the last year, and even closer to 60% early on in the pandemic, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Jen Black, executive director for the Alliance of Southwest Missouri, has been working to support children and families' mental health, including by moving her group's child-parent relationship training course online.

She said it was one way to intervene in the increase in instances of child abuse, with decreased reporting.

"In the work that we all do, we're used to running to the fire," Black explained. "And with the pandemic, it was very bizarre because a lot of us couldn't run to the fire."

Black pointed out the training is aimed at helping parents identify the emotions their children are going through, as well as managing their own stresses stemming from work, household duties and child care.

The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of safe and secure housing. Roughly 15% of Missouri adults in households with kids on average reported little to no confidence in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage payment on time.

Tom Dugger, executive director of Families and Communities Together in northeast Missouri, said his group helps residents, mostly in Marion County, make their homes really feel like home, by facilitating donations of household items folks may need.

"For example, someone goes to the domestic-abuse shelter, and they leave everything behind to get away from that situation," Dugger observed. "When they can start over, when they get a job, they can get a place to live on their own, they're starting their household over completely with nothing. And so we're able to help families like that."

The Alliance for Southwest Missouri and Families and Communities Together are among the community partnerships affiliated with the Missouri Family and Community Trust and Kids Count Missouri, all working to improve outcomes for kids and families in the state.

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