When Governor Charlie Baker ordered schools to close on March 15, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New England Community Services (NECS) Founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Reeves convened an emergency meeting with staff from NECS offices in Dorchester, Lynn, Lawrence and New Bedford to discuss a “game plan” that would allow NECS to continually pivot their service offerings for families and children, while ensuring the safety of staff and following social distancing guidelines outlined by public health experts.
Since March, NECS has adjusted and enhanced its service model to support COVID-19 response on the state level by creating a “Special Teams” task force designed to address emergency cases and implement special visits that allow them to deliver essential services and goods, including tools, gift cards, and food. The task force was also responsible for aiding Haitian, Cape Verdean Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish-speaking families during COVID-19 Pandemic and for keeping an eye out for child abuse and neglect.
Starting on May 26, NECS began easing back into the standard community outreach and visit model using a phased timeline that began with at least one face-to-face visit per client/family and two remote contacts weekly.
“We remain excited yet cautious. Our goal is to collaboratively ensure our youth, families, and communities feel safe, secure, and supported, so together, we can navigate the complexities of our adjusted environment,” says Reeves.
Throughout the pandemic, NECS remained in communication with clients via a diverse suite of virtual tools including phone calls, text messages, video conferencing, and social media. Staff also integrated the innovative use of gaming systems to engage clients.
NECS is proud of our efforts to implement creative virtual interactive activities via online games,” says Reeves. “These games allow us to play alongside our clients.” Game Pigeon, Credit Stacker (financial literacy), Crazy Games, and House Party are examples of some of the interactive gaming activities offered to community members.
In the field, NECS staff wear personal protective equipment and adhere to physical distancing and other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines (washing/sanitizing hands, etc.). NECS Managers will also consult with workers before making group home, hospital, or residential visits.
As COVID-19 response and recovery efforts continue, NECS is becoming more creative in our approach to supporting youth and families while using a high level of precaution. We have to ensure the safety of staff and the entire community we serve,” says Reeves.