The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our community in a drastic way, especially for families with children, and parental and caregiver stress has been greatly increased during the pandemic. To provide a little healing and relief from significant caregiving responsibilities, Change Inc. has developed programming to provide care for the caregivers. Through the Care for the Caregivers program, Change Inc. seeks to provide added supports for parents and caretakers.
Care for the Caregivers was funded by a grant from Minneapolis Health Department. The program was built around a variety of different caregiver offerings including a grandparent caregivers’ program, a well-being email series, a wellness room for staff at Northeast Middle School, as well as care packages for Minneapolis early childhood special education staff.
Lisa Xiong, M.A., LMFT, RPT, Change Inc. Director of Clinical Services, leads this project, providing staff consultation and professional development. “As a parent myself, I know how challenging the past few years have been for caregivers,” reflects Xiong. “What we have done is small, but hopefully significant in the moment.”
Throughout the past year, Care for the Caregivers has provided four key opportunities for caregivers.
Grand Connections: One initiative of the Care for the Caregivers is a program focused specifically on grandparent caregivers called Grand Connections. Grand Connections is a program for grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. Shockingly, 15% of grandparents surveyed said they raise their grandchildren full time, according to a 2012 study conducted by Generations United and MetLife. It is likely that their grandchildren have experienced many traumas. They often don't know how to connect with their grandchildren, so the workshops help them not only learn basic parenting skills, but how to build those connections so that they have a support system among other grandparents who are also raising their grandchildren. Grandparents often do not have the support system they would have if they were young and around other parents, so this is very important.
Email Well-being Series: Care for the Caregivers also created a 6-week email series delivering well-being tools, recorded yoga lessons, and live yoga class straight to subscribers’ inboxes. Change Inc. therapists, Katie Fisher and Hannah Berg, led yoga lessons and classes. Jess Finney, another therapist with Change Inc., provided acknowledgement, appreciation, and tangible takeaways to support caregivers in their efforts of caring for their children through weekly emails.
Wellness Room at Northeast Middle School: Jennifer Krizan, a therapist at Change Inc., led the push of setting up a wellness room at Northeast Middle School. The room was dimly lit and provided snacks, coffee, and tea for teachers and caregivers at the school. This provided a place where staff could take a moment to themselves in the craziness of the day and refocus their energy towards providing care towards students and children. Watch a video of the transformation here.
Care Packages: Lisa Xiong led organization of 150 care packages for Minneapolis early childhood special education staff. With the help of her mom and brother, they were able to assemble the packages with items such as tea, cookie mixes, ChapStick, positive affirmations, and more. She then delivered the care packages to Minneapolis Public Schools with the help of Change Inc. executive director, Jody Nelson. Teachers told her that they were very appreciative of the care packages, especially right before the teacher’s strike.
These are just a few of the outcomes of receiving a grant through Minneapolis Health Department to build caregiver capacity and resilience. Something that makes Care for the Caregivers unique is that it’s focused on caregivers vs. parents. At Change Inc., part of our mission is that “Relationships are the key to change.” Focusing specifically on caregivers opens up an entire audience of adults to relationships they can use who might otherwise not know where to look for support. Care for the Caregivers seeks to reduce caregiver stress created by the pandemic and other crises. Caregivers with less stress have more to offer those children in their care.