The pandemic may be over but children, and the staff that serve them, are still feeling the effects.
Childcare and out-of-school time providers continue to report increased social-emotional needs, due in part to pandemic-related social isolation and instability during critical stages of development — with potentially significant consequences.
It’s a good thing our partners have responded.
Worcester Public Schools adjustment counselors team up to help
Worcester Public Schools adjustment counselors play a vital role in the education of children. Simply put, young people, like adults, struggle to learn and complete tasks when their social-emotional needs aren’t met.
Fortunately, since 2021, WPS adjustment counselors like Marvin Negron, School Adjustment Counselor and Rachel Niddrie, School Psychologist have been working their magic at places like the YWCA of Central Massachusetts and the YMCA of Central Massachusetts.
It’s a partnership that began in pandemic-era meetings convened by Edward Street and it continues supporting children to this day.
“It’s been a game-changer,” says YWCA of Central Massachusetts School Age Programs and Summer Camp Coordinator Cindy Landry. “[Marvin] is very good at building trusting relationships with the children. He checks in with certain children that probably need the most support or that give staff the most challenges.”
Adjustment counselors support the work of program staff too, with long-term benefits to the programs themselves.
Says Pam Supernant, Vice President of Youth Development & Community Services, YMCA of Central Massachusetts, “It’s one thing for staff to have training and to get the tools they need, it’s another thing entirely to learn directly from Rachel as she models de-escalation and intervention techniques.
“Staff feel seen and heard, which also supports program leadership in its goals.”
A partnership in the truest sense of the word
WPS adjustment counselors may be experts in social-emotional support techniques, but they approach after school and summer vacation programs as open-minded collaborators.
They start by asking questions.
“We really let the programs tell us what they need,” says Worcester Public Schools Director of Social-Emotional Learning Maura Mahoney, who oversees the Child Study Department, including adjustment counselors and school psychologists.
“Some request staff consultations, and we guide their staff in providing social-emotional and behavioral support. Sometimes it’s about having a presence in a room where there’s a behavioral issue with a specific group of children. Other times, it’s one-on-one work with a child.”
With proper funding, every child would get the support they need
The pandemic may have heightened children’s social-emotional needs, and created additional behavioral challenges for staff; however, children are impacted by everything from severe trauma and family instability to home and lifestyle changes.
“Things that we think aren’t a crisis, can be,” Mahoney explains. “For instance, if they’re moving to a new home, if there’s a new baby in the family, or maybe mom lost her job or has different work hours.”
Children, many of whom spend the better part of their days and weeks with school and out-of-school time staff, need support. They’re getting it at places like the YWCA of Central Massachusetts and the YMCA of Central Massachusetts.
“A lot of the kids have a lot of trauma in their background, which obviously affects their behavior in the classroom,” says Landry. “But Marvin brings consistent support. He gets to know the kids, and he also helps our staff gain new skills.”
“Marvin always says to the students, ‘You have to believe in yourself in order to make a difference,’ and it sticks with them. They’re able to manage their behavioral issues and not get upset,” adds Diane Belliveau, YMCA of Central Massachusetts Director of Children’s Services,
Since this unique collaboration began in 2021, it has only grown. Currently, 25 adjustment counselors regularly visit after school programs during the school year and camps during summer vacation.
Still, Mahoney wishes she and her team could provide even more assistance.
“I want everyone, everywhere to be able to do this,” she says. “The more we can grow this program, the better.”