On June 17th Help Me Grow-Long Island hosted a webinar presenting our second annual report “Help Me Grow Long Island: Meeting family needs during COVID and beyond.” Melissa Passarelli, Director of Programs, started this event by introducing HMG-LI, the importance of the early years of life, and the need for the Help Me Grow collective impact model to build collaboration across often siloed early childhood sectors. Data from the HMG-LI system was presented to demonstrate key findings about changing needs of families with young children before and after the start of the pandemic. In the 6 months before and the 6 months after the start of the pandemic, HMG-LI served 36 new communities due to increasing needs. Two-thirds of families helped by HMG-LI during this time needed help with accessing basic items like diapers, wipes, and formula for their babies, of which 90% were connected to services. According to a survey among HMG-LI partners, analysis demonstrated that partners have also been working more closely together to build a better integrated early childhood system after HMG-LI launched in 2018.
First off, I’d like to start by thanking Fabella for all her help, patience, and kind words. She helped me during a time I felt lost, confused, and unheard. She was there when I was most vulnerable as a parent because I felt as if I was failing my son because I was unable to get him the help he needed and ultimately, I needed as well. Fabella was there to listen to me and ease my anxiety and pain when I was told my son may possibly be autistic. As a parent seeking help during the pandemic, I felt limited as if there were little to no resources to guide me in the right direction. I would call multiple agencies I was referred to and they were dead ends. It wasn’t until January 2021 after 5 months of disappointment that I was referred to Help Me Grow, and I must say I am now thankful for that referral. With Help Me Grow, I was given guidance, references, and most of all I was given someone who I felt cared, who would actually follow-up after each appointment and meeting I had. I was given someone who was really willing to help me, listen to me, and eventually celebrate with me. After 7 months I was finally able to get my son the services he needed. For this I will forever be grateful to Fabella and Help Me Grow. Thank you.”
HMG-LI mom, speaking at the event
Three moms joined the event to talk about their experiences working with HMG-LI. All the parents expressed deep gratitude to HMG-LI for their service during this difficult period, and shared that they had positive, supportive, and enriching experiences working with HMG-LI Family Resource Specialists in their time of need.
Dr. Robert Lee, Assistant Professor and Director of the Residency Program in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Long Island School of Medicine, joined to speak from his perspective as a pediatrician and a parent. Dr. Lee spoke about the importance of monitoring developmental milestones in pediatric practice, and how HMG-LI has been helpful to the families he sees but also a valuable partnership that helps physicians integrate developmental screening and promotion.
Joy Connolly, Executive Director of the Child Care Council of Nassau, then joined to discuss how CCCN’s partnership with HMG-LI, since the inception of HMG-LI, has helped strengthen systems across Long Island, increased communication and collaboration of the childcare sector, and even improved provision of direct service.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Deputy County Executive of Suffolk County, joined to share how HMG-LI and Suffolk County have collaborated since 2016 to provide the “smartest start” to our communities’ youngest children through a myriad of initiatives from providing parents with developmental promotion resources to helping locate resources to share across sectors.
Finally, Dr. Liz Isakson, Executive Director of Docs for Tots, introduced a video message from Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul who shared her story of connections to her family and learning about a social responsibility to uplift others, having personally experienced a humble beginning in life. She discussed the importance of understanding that the societal experiences of families with newborns from the very start can create fundamental differences in outcomes throughout life. Lt. Governor Hochul also discussed the lack of resources for childcares, and how NYS is investing in expansion of quality, affordable childcare options across the state by creating early childhood career centers, investing in QualityStarsNY, and addressing childcare deserts.
Dr. Isakson presented three take-home messages in closing:
All families, partners and supporters are instrumental to the success of Help Me Grow-Long Island. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned that this extended network of support is necessary for families in the best of times, but far more critical during this crisis – particularly for families with babies and toddlers and their parents, whose needs are much different and met far less often.
Watch the webinar, including a video message from Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or wish to partner with HMG-LI to support families with young children on Long Island.
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Quality early childhood education settings have great potential to transform our nation’s health.
Docs for Tots is a non-profit, non-partisan organization led by pediatricians to promote practices, policies, and investments that will enable young children to thrive. Docs for Tots creates linkages between doctors, policymakers, early childhood practitioners, and other stakeholders to ensure that children grow up healthy. As doctors, we are action-oriented and deeply committed to improving the lives of young children and their families.