Forty years after being founded in Skid Row, UnidosUS Affiliate Para Los Niños continues to help communities thrive
By Christina Bragg, Communications and Marketing Director at Para Los Niños
At Para Los Niños (PLN), working with the community is at the heart of our mission. In March, when the decision was made to close sites to protect families and staff from COVID-19, PLN was able to quickly pivot to address the needs of thousands of children, youth, and their families. And due to our deep connections with those we serve—formed through robust mental health integration with our schools, and exceptional afterschool programs—PLN was in a fortunate position to know where our families would need extra support during this confusing and unprecedented time.
Many of the parents and caregivers who rely on PLN, even in the best of times, are living paycheck to paycheck and struggle to meet basic needs of food and housing. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of PLN youth and families lost their sources of income, facing more challenges than ever before. To address this, PLN adapted to ensure students and families were still able to stay on track and continue to thrive.
Adapting to the more urgent needs that presented themselves during these past few months, PLN staff regularly reached out to all families, and found the greatest areas of concern were: food security and unmet basic needs, online learning and access, and technology for students. PLN responded by adapting and providing the following supports:
- Essential supplies (food, diapers, and toiletries)
- Technology devices and access (secured and loaned out Chromebook devices and tablets)
- Distance learning and technical support (through mobile hotspots and daily check-ins)
- Transportation access and resources for families working essential jobs
- Case management and telehealth services
More specifically, all early education centers and charter schools moved to remote learning–posting assignments, lesson plans, activities, and resources to empower parents in this new role as home teacher. Further, distributions were arranged for families to pick up shelf-stable and fresh food weekly. Early childhood families were also given diapers, wipes, and formula to meet the needs of infants and toddlers, now home for the up to 10 hours they were normally in PLN’s early education centers.
Additionally, after learning many students’ technology access included a single cell phone for an entire family, staff coordinated to loan out all the iPads and Chromebooks PLN had on hand. Further, the afterschool staff assembled and distributed supply kits for students most in need to have the tools required for success.
Our Student and Community Services team–who partner with schools and families to integrate social-emotional learning, in addition to partnerships with the Department of Children and Family Services and Neighborhood Leadership Groups–continued therapy sessions via telehealth and held critical home visitations, safely, for those most vulnerable at this time. Plus, the team’s deep family relationships ensure those being most impacted have what they need.
“When we showed up to the PLN warehouse, the people came out and asked what size diapers we needed and they gave us a big box of size three diapers and a small box of size fours. They also blessed us with wipes, toys, and booties. We are so thankful that they did not look down on us. They treated us with great customer service,” said one grateful mom of the distributions being offered through PLN.
The coronavirus health crisis has impacted PLN in a myriad of ways, but the response has been even greater. Staff, donors, community members, and families have worked together to help all stay healthy and on track. Learn more about the work we do and how you too can join our efforts by visiting paralosninos.org or following us on social platforms at @paralosninosorg.