COVID-19 has impacted the way families and communities live, learn, work, and connect. It has upended systems delivery and program operations for family-serving agencies and programs across the country and has put families in the center of service delivery, in a way not previously imagined.
The ACF Region 1 Regional Administrator, Elaine Zimmerman, and Program Specialist, Josephine Hauer, collaborated with national two-generation consultant, Sarah Griffen, to produce a briefing report on the lessons learned in the New England states from COVID-19.
This report captures insights and lessons as well as suggestions for policy and practice from the state frontline experience. State policy leaders, parents, business leaders, non-profits and philanthropy all contributed to the insights in this report.
Interviews were conducted with human service leaders, in the New England states, to document flexibilities, waivers, operations change, cultural shifts, and innovations under COVID-19 that would support families through and beyond the crisis. Parents were interviewed and summaries of weekly New England Whole Family Approach to Jobs Initiative calls were held to learn common challenges and solutions.
Lessons learned are detailed in the report with a focus on innovations, parent voice, culture and operations. Leaders shared how they have changed their leadership styles. Parents shared what they need to protect their children. State examples to undergird racial equity are noted and the states discussed how to envision a future that leverages the innovations that have now been built into the system. Recommendations are offered to build on the collaboration and innovations that show promise.
The COVID-19 crisis revealed to New England states a new way of working that is more efficient and family-centered, and the lessons learned are only as good as their practice going forward.