COVID-19 has highlighted the value and the importance of essential workers, and it has broadened our understanding of what “essential” means in the workforce. However, still and too often, social workers, who are key frontline workers, are forgotten from the conversation and recognition.
What that lapse leaves out are:
March is Social Work Month. Take the time to thank these essential workers for all that they have done and will do through the pandemic and in its aftermath.
This Women’s History Month, we wanted to spotlight a community partner that has had a profound impact on our Fellows, as well as many others in need throughout Bucks and surrounding counties. The Vine at Doylestown United Methodist Church is a women-led organization that, through donations, helps to provide food, clothing and other goods to underserved communities, families and individuals. To distribute, the Vine partners with programs, like RJLF, throughout the area and works to meet a wide range of needs as they arise.
Though we have been linked with the Vine for some time now, it has been through the pandemic that we have seen just how much they can and want to do. When the COVID-19 lockdowns began, the Vine put together food for families who had lost income or who saw an increased strain on the grocery budget due to kids being home all the time. In August, they filled school supply lists (including hand sanitizer, wipes and masks), and at Thanksgiving they stuffed cars full of holiday meals plus bagfuls of extras. In between and since, they have helped Fellows gather clothes for interviews and new jobs, they have sent gift cards and much, much more. Most recently, they put out a call to help one of our Fellows fill the Amazon wishlist she made in preparation for her new baby.
We are constantly in awe and overwhelmed with gratitude for the hard work and generosity of the Vine. Thank you to the Vine and especially to Liz, Becky and Lynlee. You are women we could not be more proud to know.
It has been one year since we reached out to our Fellows, Mentors and Board Members cancelling a March 15th workshop. At the time, we thought this would be a temporary blip on the calendar. We were discussing an April fundraising event and brainstorming May dates for the in-person workshop to be rescheduled.
On this same day, one year ago, Governor Wolf issued social distancing guidelines for our counties and urged nonessential businesses to close. Just 11 days later, he issued stay-at-home orders. Those orders remained in place until June 5 when we entered the yellow phase of reopening and June 26 when we entered the green phase.
Since March 12, 2020, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our communities. Bucks County has had 42,051 confirmed cases and 1,150 deaths, while Montgomery County reports 55,716 confirmed cases and 1,572 deaths. Within RJLF, at least three of our Fellows have tested positive for COVID-19. Many of us have lost loved ones. And we miss each other.
However also since March 12, 2020, we have again and again been reminded of the strength, resilience and dedication of our RJLF Fellows, their children, our Mentors and Board Members, and our Community Partners.
We cannot accurately predict how much longer our society will remain as it is. We cannot predict what “normal” will look like when we return to it. What we do know is that we are grateful to be in this unknown with you and better for having had the RJLF community through this pandemic.
According to Vice President Kamala Harris, approximately 2.5 million women have left the workforce since the beginning of the pandemic one year ago. They have been laid off and furloughed. Their businesses have been shuttered. And/or their families’ needs have necessitated a step away.
We don’t yet know if this loss will be permanent or even how long-term. It is likely that a portion of the 2.5 million will remain out of the workforce for some time, potentially choosing to remain at home if able or facing the loss of an industry/company/position. No matter the duration, we do know that fewer women in the workforce isn’t a good thing.
Women are proven to have a positive impact on their places of employment, increasing collaboration and productivity, boosting morale among employees and improving recruitment and retention for the company.
This Women’s History Month (and beyond), we must remind ourselves of the importance of having women in the workforce and strive to help the women who have been pushed out due to the pandemic, as well as those still working, to find their place and voice within the workforce, to find the balance they want between work and family, and to recognize the assets they are to our society.
Having looked at the disproportionate representation of Black youth in foster care and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority groups, we thought it time to revisit the impact the pandemic has had on youth in foster care.
According to a study completed by the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research, nearly half of the youth surveyed - youth who are in or recently aged out of foster care - reported COVID-19 having a negative impact on their housing. The youth were asked to leave or feared being asked to leave their current living situation, and/or were experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. More than half reported being food insecure and “Two-thirds of the participants reported that COVID-19 was having a major negative impact on their educational progress or attainment.” The study also found significant impact on mental health and permanency.
What does this mean specifically for Black youth in or aging out of foster care through the pandemic? The research - in Pennsylvania and nationally - hasn’t borne that data yet. However, we can surmise that COVID-19 has been particularly challenging for Black youth and could have long-term impacts on their futures.
We and others have said many times that while we are all in the same storm, we are in different boats. Some will feel the waves of the pandemic more than others, and if we can, it is up to us to help anchor them.