Our hearts go out to you and all members of the Wayfinder family in these challenging times. We hope you are faring well. The COVID-19 pandemic is difficult for everyone, but especially for our most vulnerable clients. Ten-year-old Thomas has nowhere else to go. Born with intellectual disabilities, he lives in a Wayfinder group home with five other children. As COVID-19 sweeps the country, Wayfinder’s residential programs remain open and safe for those like Thomas who need our 24-hour care.
Thomas’ mom, a single mother who worked as a seamstress, was financially and physically unable to care for a child with disabilities. Thomas came to live with us when he was 6 years old. He enrolled in our Special Education School, where he is thriving. With one-to-one attention from our teachers and aides, he is speaking more and has learned some sign language. Thomas is outgoing, happy and engaging. He loves his teachers, aides and the group home staff. His family no longer visits. We are the only family he knows.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Wayfinder’s 24-hour residential programs for foster children and children with disabilities are fully staffed and running without interruption. We’re providing educational programs, like our Special Education School, with distance- learning technology. We are using telehealth and phone calls to continue crucial mental health therapy, home visits to foster children, and early intervention for young children with vision loss or multiple disabilities. As always, Wayfinder’s services are free of charge to children and families, most of whom are low-income.
Because of his disability, Thomas has the cognitive abilities of a 3-year-old. He doesn’t understand social distancing or the impact of good handwashing. But his Wayfinder caregivers do. They are gently guiding him to wash his hands and keep a safe distance. Our staff are giving all they have to protect him and other children from the virus. Along with parents all across the country, our group home staff has also taken on “home schooling” Thomas. They connect everyday with staff from our Special Education School, ensuring that Thomas has the routine and support he needs to continue thriving.
The economic downturn associated with COVID 19 will potentially increase the need for our services. Families will have fewer resources and more stress, which historically results in higher rates of abuse and neglect. Children with disabilities, like Thomas, are at highest risk.
Some details and Thomas’ name have been changed, and stock photography was used to protect his privacy.
June 4, 2020