Organizations Adjust to COVID-19 Conditions


Virtual Lobby at the Texas Child Care Administrators Conference 2020

Just like public schools, small businesses and so many families, child-welfare organizations have had to write new playbooks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, however, these organizations have shown tremendous ingenuity and resiliency in the ways they have adapted to the new reality imposed by the pandemic.

At our recent Texas Child Care Administrators Conference, leaders from several Alliance member organizations discussed changes they made so they could continue to meet the needs of the children, youth and families they serve. The session illustrated both the challenges presented by the sudden arrival of the coronavirus and the dexterity and commitment of organizations in the child welfare system.

Jenifer Jarriel, CEO of DePelchin Children’s Center in Houston, described how she had prepared in 2019 to do considerable strategic planning with the DePelchin Board in 2020. But when the pandemic hit, the focus shifted to a shorter-term strategic plan focused on programs, finances, fundraising, human capital and information technology. This required conversations with Board members such as, “How much of a deficit are you willing to tolerate?”

“I always feel like we are re-budgeting on an ongoing basis, but here it was even more important,” she said.

DePelchin staff quickly adjusted to the new reality of meeting and delivering some services online although, “If we feel like a family or a child needs in-person services, we are going to do that,” Jarriel said.

Caryle Dupart, the Chief Operations Officer of Bulverde-based SJRC Texas, said the organization was going through its national reaccreditation process when the pandemic hit and “stayed in reaccreditation mode.” SJRC was able to expand its capacity and continued to provide services including foster care and kinship care, emergency shelter and services for child sex-trafficking survivors who are parents or pregnant.

Melissa Olsen, Human Resources Director at Arrow Child and Family Ministries in Austin, talked about her organization’s efforts to meet the emotional, social, physical and occupational/financial needs of employees during the pandemic. Turnover has actually gone down, she said.

Olsen described specific efforts Arrow made to support employees during the challenges of the pandemic, such as frontloading pay raises, making a special effort to celebrate birthdays and other important occasions, and creating virtual game nights and other activities.

“An employee is much more than a person who sits at a desk every day,” Olsen said.

The session is instructive for anyone wanting to know how to continue services and meet the needs of children and staff during unexpectedly challenging times. Anyone who registered for the conference can view it on the Auditorium page by searching for “COVID-19: How Child Welfare Organizations Maintain Stability in Turbulent Times.”