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FloCrit Rises to the Challenge of COVID-1

The COVID-19 pandemic made for an unforgettable, even historic, school year at FloCrit, requiring innovation at every turn, and learning to be carried into the future. FloCrit’s dedicated program staff accepted the challenge of our teen moms and children being…

June 29, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic made for an unforgettable, even historic, school year at FloCrit, requiring innovation at every turn, and learning to be carried into the future. FloCrit’s dedicated program staff accepted the challenge of our teen moms and children being largely confined in their homes for the first half of the year, unable to access services on-site. Everyone, from our amazing Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers, to our Student and Family Support Program (SFSP) Family Advocates, and our Development staff, was determined that despite the unprecedented obstacles that COVID presented, our teen families would stay engaged and supported, and continue their growth from home.

In September, despite Denver Public Schools (DPS) remaining strictly online for all students, Florence Crittenton Services’ ECE Center opened its doors again, after weeks of careful preparation to stay COVID-safe. For teen moms who were able to reach our campus, the center offered the same high-quality care and education to their children as always, allowing them a few hours to work on their school assignments, or earn money to replace family income from lost jobs.

For the many teen moms who could not bring their children to campus, the ECE Center launched a new online program using the Ready Rosie Family Engagement System®, which provides tailored child development activities every week to our teen families that they can do at home. ECE teachers worked to identify appropriate activities for each family, based on the development needs of the child. ECE teachers also checked in regularly with our moms, providing support as they engaged with the material at home. By year’s end, 50 families had participated in Ready Rosie. Mona Lisa Martinez, FloCrit’s ECE Center Director, remarks, “I couldn’t be prouder of our ECE teachers. The entire team was committed to returning to campus as soon as we possibly could. Under very challenging circumstances, our ECE teachers were still able to re-ignite children’s enthusiasm and that sense of wonder they experience from classroom activities.  And they also provided an essential service for our FloCrit community, giving more young moms the opportunity to progress academically at home while their children were learning, too.”

Meanwhile, FloCrit’s SFSP team continued to adapt and refine its services to ensure our teen moms stayed motivated to succeed. The team continued delivering basic needs packages to houses, and conducted socially-distanced home visits so that moms knew that FloCrit was still there for them. In October, the SFSP launched an in-person Learning Center on the FloCrit campus, following all COVID safety guidelines. This allowed students the opportunity to participate in their online classes in a quiet, peaceful space. And, child care was available while they worked. The team also expanded its support to teen moms needing housing. Using COVID relief funding available through the city, SFSP staff worked one-on-one with young moms to provide assistance with rent or household expenses that, had they gone unpaid, would have resulted in eviction and homelessness.

In January, our DPS partner introduced a hybrid model of instruction, giving young moms the option to either come back to the classroom or continue online. In-person classes were offered in the morning, with the SFSP Learning Center open in the afternoon. During the third quarter of the school year, about half of our moms continued online. In April with the start of the fourth quarter, many more returned to campus. Desta Taye-Channell, FloCrit’s SFSP Director, confirms, “This year has made us stronger as a team, and as a community. We learned to support each other, and our young moms, on a whole new level. I’m excited to blend the innovations we came up with in 2020, together with the traditional on-site programming we’ll be offering in the fall.”

In March, thanks to strong advocacy on the part of FloCrit’s President & CEO, Suzanne Banning, all staff were provided the opportunity to get the COVID vaccine, allowing everyone to return safely to full-time presence on campus soon thereafter. Program staff then turned their focus to helping interested teen moms and family members get vaccinated, working with our partners Denver Health, and the City of Denver, to expand education around the safety of the vaccine, and facilitate vaccine appointments for our community.

As the FloCrit community prepares for 100% in-person learning starting in August, FloCrit is bringing on-site summer programming to young moms and children through June and July. While academics will be provided by our DPS partner, the SFSP team will offer COVID-safe enrichment activities designed to promote physical and social-emotional health. Child care will be offered as well.