COVID19 Shifts Family Mentoring Experience

May 4, 2020

Va-LEND trainees have always appreciated close interaction with their mentoring families through the Family Mentorship Experience (FME) program, a highlight of their time in Va-LEND. However, starting in March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in person visits were no longer feasible due to social distancing.
Kate Flinn, FME Coordinator, reflects that "It's really challenging people to think out of the box about virtual connections and how to make them work. It's also challenging people to be creative in how they keep their kids engaged, while so many are now home with them 24-7." Trainees were asked to use a virtual platform of their choice-FaceTime, Google Chat, Zoom, for example-to visit their families. The transition has been a mixed blessing. There was some apprehension among trainees about making the transition, and whether they could engage with children virtually as well as in person. However, families in the FME have computers and internet connections at home and were open to participate with virtual meetings. Some trainees even reported it made scheduling visits easier. "Some of the families with more significantly impaired children and/or who are single parent homes are having a difficult time keeping their children engaged now that there is no longer the structure of school to help ground them or daycare available." Flinn noted. For the future, she says, "I do feel there is an advantage to allowing at least a few virtual visits between trainees and their FME families. For example, scheduling is frequently difficult for most families and trainees and the virtual visits allow greater flexibility to schedule visits. And there will most likely still be a concern for many families in the fall to continue to monitor for the virus if their children (or other family members) are in high risk categories."

Meanwhile, Va-LEND looks forward to returning to in-person visits in a variety of settings as the "gold standard" for trainees.

Submitted by Jennifer Drummond