Volunteer & Partners Services (VPS) has gone virtual! The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed our daily operations. Though these are trying times, we at VPS have viewed this as an opportunity to expand our efforts to continue supporting families. So, we have transitioned to offering virtual services for families through our Study Buddy, BeFriend-A-Child and Body Safety programs. This has allowed us to continue our relationships with families that have been built over months and or even years of service. VPS is committed to be a beacon of hope for the community we serve.
The volunteers of the Study Buddy Program have remained nimble in the face of the abrupt challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 86 percent of our tutors have successfully adapted to eTutoring as our program delivery format transitioned from face to face tutoring to virtual tutoring sessions. Additionally, with the help of the Study Buddy program coordinator, the program has been able to retain approximately 82 percent of student participants. The program continues to support the academic needs of students who had previous involvement with the child welfare system. We could not be prouder of both our volunteers and the students we serve.
In order to adjust to social distancing policies, the BeFriend-A-Child Program staff developed an eMentoring program to provide at-risk children ages 8-12 years old with an online mentor. The mentors empower children by providing guidance, support, and encouragement. Using online platforms affords mentors and mentees the opportunity to overcome the barrier of social isolation to develop more engaging relationships. The eMentoring program ensures that the children VPS serves continue to receive adaptive support services. 100 percent of all existing BeFriend-A-Child mentoring pairs transitioned to this online paradigm. Additionally, there were 10 new mentor matches in place by the end of May. The mentoring pairs are meeting virtually for at least 30 minutes weekly totaling 2-4 hours a month. Staff is working with eMentors to prepare activities and virtual outings with eMentees to foster a supportive and creative experience. Staff is consistently checking in with mentors and mentees and their families. Our staff maintains constant communication with the child’s resource workers to ensure needed services and resources are available to families.
The Body Safety Program was hit particularly hard by the distressing impacts of COVID-19. Fairfax County Public Schools experienced challenges with distance learning. This made it difficult to develop a way to teach body safety virtually through the schools. Also, many of the programs’ volunteer facilitators are in demographic groups most vulnerable to the virus. Unfortunately, during this pandemic, children are even more at risk of child abuse and increased online exposure to their predators. Consequently, the Body Safety program had to be creative to quickly begin delivering the program virtually. It is currently being offered to all CYF families, with children and parents learning together in the sessions.
This article posting is part of The Volunteer Post Newsletter for current and potential volunteers, sponsors and donors interested in supporting children and families in crisis. Learn more about Fairfax County Department of Family Services' Volunteer & Partner Services Program (VPS).