Five Acres workforce finds balance for foster care children

Accompanied by a residential team member, two Five Acres children take a break from remote learning and play video games in the new teen room in the auditorium while practicing social distancing.

Five Acres children take a break from remote learning and play video games in the new teen room in the auditorium while practicing social distancing.

ALTADENA, Calif., May 1, 2020—Children in foster care have been significantly disrupted by the global pandemic. Children living at Five Acres are placed at the residential campus in Altadena because of acute trauma they experienced at home. The impact of COVID-19 is another traumatic event that the charity’s workforce is helping the children navigate.

Division Director of Residential, Claudia Rice, said, “Clinicians have done an amazing job with sessions, in-person and telehealth services. They have decreased [the children’s] anxiety about not going to school or not being able to go on an outing.”

When the safer-at-home order was announced, the charity’s rehabilitation and residential team responded quickly by changing the children’s programming. “What takes weeks of planning and bouncing ideas with others was planned from one day to the next,” said Rice. “It was impressive to see how everyone worked together so quickly.”

Likewise the Facilities team hustled to convert one of the buildings to serve as a five-bed self-isolation unit, with the capacity to hold an additional 20 beds.

Besides having the standard emergency, non-pandemic supplies, Five Acres’ leadership was ahead of the curve when it began buying pandemic-specific inventory in late February. “This prescient action proved crucial in allowing the agency to obtain pandemic-mitigation supplies before they became nearly impossible to purchase,” said Facilities Director Jake Cashill.

Coordinating the emergency logistics, Cashill’s team also consolidated supplies from other office locations at their main facility, as these off-campus buildings quickly became nearly vacant, with employees working from home or remotely. According to Cashill, the goal was to get the supplies where they were needed most – at the residential campus – where the children were sequestered, and where operations continued.

“Working here is always a juggle,” said Cashill, who added that his team continues to maintain its everyday duties.

Five Acres mental health team and residential staff are also addressing the children’s emotional safety. They are having ongoing conversations around the pandemic and talking about their safety and that of others. Staff are encouraging youth to make better decisions to ensure everyone’s well-being.

In addressing the children’s emotions, staff also recognizes the need for predictability. The residential team has increased the amount of activities throughout the day, setting specific time for children to do their work, engage in fun activities, and participate in sports like basketball and swimming. “Having a routine and schedule allows the children to learn and grow,” said Rice, “So upon returning to school, their educational growth continued despite the suspension of actual classroom time due to Covid-19.”

Staff is planning activities from the moment the children get up to the moment they go to bed.

“As you can imagine, the need for educational and recreational supplies has increased a great deal due to the hours that have been added to the programming,” said Rice.

Increased programming requires additional supply needs. While public schools provided some of the students with Chrome books, not all of them received them. Rice encourages the community to come together to make donations. The charity is asking for donations to purchase school supplies, arts and crafts, math flashcards, additional Chrome books, mini projectors, Spectrum math books for grades 3 to 7, and middle school reading books.

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