For struggling moms and families, SAFEchild provides support during pandemic
Posted January 17, 2021 9:00 p.m. EST
For years, SAFEchild has thrived in the personal connections it forms with the families it works with. With a focus on eliminating child abuse, its staff fans out across the county to work with thousands of kids and parents through education and support programs.
COVID-19 scuttled its usual face-to-face operations in 2020, but Cristin DeRonja, its executive director, said SAFEchild's services were needed even more as new moms found themselves more isolated than ever and families were holed up together for months on end.
"Parenting and raising children is a heavy lift every day," said DeRonja, a mother of four. "And no one in their right mind was prepared to parent in this way for such an extended period of time. And I think that really needs to be strongly considered by all communities. ... You can have tough moments as a parent that make parenting harder, but they don't typically last for this level of duration with this complexity that no one has a playbook for."
At the start of the pandemc, SAFEchild's staff quickly pivoted to respond, taking in-person activities virtual. The nonprofit serves families with kids ages 0 to 18. "In very simple terms," DeRonja said, "I am always just moved beyond tears that we've been able to be with our community."
SAFEchild's programs are many, but for individual parents, it offers workshops, classes and groups that aim to break negative parenting patterns and build healthier family relationships. "The gift that SAFEchild has given has been a regular, scheduled, cost effective, very accessible, barring any technology issues, platforms for families to see another family—to connect," she said.
Here's what SAFEchild offers and how you can get involved. All of SAFEchild's programs are free.
Moms Supporting Moms
Moms Supporting Moms is designed for moms of babies who are struggling with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Here, they can get together in a structured (and virtual) environment to talk about their concerns. A medical advisor and two trained facilitators are on hand at each session.
"It's an open, ongoing support group that really focuses in on that first year of the baby's life and that stage of parenting and child development," DeRonja said.
Sessions are Tuesday mornings and Thursday evenings and women can join in at any time.
DeRonja emphasizes that this program is for any mom who is struggling whether it's their first, second or third baby and regardless of their family's resources. And, during COVID, studies indicate that many more moms are facing mental health challenges. A study from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that 36% of pregnant and postpartum women had significant levels of depression. Before the pandemic, it was 15% to 20%, according to a WebMD article.
Check out this really touching video featuring Anna, a local mom who found support through Moms Supporting Moms. "The amount of time in between th tears were getting shorter and shorter," she says.
SAFEchild also offers a WarmLine for moms and families who need to reach out. It's not a 24/7 crisis line, DeRonja said, but it is staffed by trained volunteers who can help with concerns.
"Sometimes they are just looking for support and don't know where to go," she said.
You can call the WarmLine at 919-454-6946 or text 910-898-2139.
Pre-COVID, a trained mom would visit with another mom and baby during the baby's first year of life. It's still a home-based visiting program, but now the visits happen virtually. Volunteers, however, may still deliver diapers, formula and books in a socially distanced manner. SAFEchild also has partnered with The Green Chair Project to provide cribs as well through this program. "The better sleep mom gets because baby has a safe place to sleep, that helps everyone too," DeRonja said.
Mentors check in on moms as needed, typically once a week or every other week.
Parents also can sign up for parenting classes that fit their specific needs and stage of parenting. In addition to Moms Supporting Moms, SAFEchild has programs for men and families with school age kids. The Circle of Security Program works to strengthen the bonds between kids and parents. The PLUS program helps parents learn how to better communicate with their kids.
To learn more about these programs, DeRonja said it's best to fill out the program registration form on SAFEchild's website.
For more information about all of its programs, head over to the SAFEchild website. If you'd like to help, DeRonja said SAFEchild always needs experienced moms to serve as mentors, especially bilingual ones who can help the Hispanic community.
Going forward, DeRonja said mental health needs to be a focus as we emerge from the pandemic.
"What I hope, as we continue down this road of vaccination, so much focus has been on the physiological well-being of our world," she said. "But we're really going to have to start focusing on the psychological well-being of our world and what this has meant to us. I'm very hopeful that the rhetoric and narrative will balance out."