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California Stories

Experiences During the COVID-19 Crisis

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Monique, Mother & Parent Advocate San Diego
Parent Voices leader Monique gets a hug from her son Makai after speaking in Chula Vista, CA
I have a friend who is an undocumented immigrant with a 7-year-old-son. She already struggled to find work and now is struggling even more because of the virus.

I am a Parent Advocate for Parent Voices San Diego as well as the San Diego Organizer for End Child Poverty California. I have a friend who is an undocumented immigrant with a 7-year-old-son. She already struggled to find work and now is struggling even more because of the virus. She’s cleaning houses and doing caregiving. She’s sacrificing her health and her family to afford this cost of living and not getting any emergency funding because of her status. We need to protect our most vulnerable communities and should never leave any families behind, especially during a pandemic that no one has control over. Another parent leader has a small child that needs an IEP. What about children with special needs? Another parent doesn’t have the funds for internet access to do work or school online. How can we assist our low-income communities in this time of need? We need food, shelter, healthcare, and the financial support for our most vulnerable families. We cannot expect they will overcome this pandemic without help from the government.

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Sabrina, Mother of Three, Community Advocate & Law Student Compton
Mom-of-three and law student Sabrina poses with her children and a beautiful lake with sun streaks in the background
I’m now working at Amazon 60 hours a week as a social distance champion to inform associates how important it is to stay apart.

Being a mother of three is a challenge within itself, but to add on homeschooling for three different grades has set new heights I never set out for. Prior to this crisis I was working full time at an Amazon warehouse going to law school and studying for the baby bar. I already felt I had a lot on my plate. Having my kids in a good school that had longer hours like Kipp Academy 7:20 to 6:20 allowed me to juggle my everyday life. After COVID it seemed that things switched so quick it has been very hard to keep up. I’m now working at Amazon 60 hours a week as a social distance champion to inform associates how important it is to stay apart. I set the kids up in three time blocks – 10-12, 12-2, 2-4 – for them to do school. I do one video zoom with my law school class weekly from 5-6 on the way to work, then click in at 6:15pm and I’m there until 4:45am to come home and sleep and do it all again. This journey is very stressful not to say the least, but the quality time I’ve been able to have with my kiddos is priceless.

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Sandra, Grandmother Fresno
Having the family spread all over Fresno and me having a weakened immune system already, my whole family is on edge. I live alone, and my kids are spread through every other corner of Fresno. My grandkids are out of reach. None of them want to take the chance of infecting me so they stay away but my family is my life and so depression is setting in because I can’t have them to hold. I spent my birthday locked inside. My granddaughter’s third birthday is today and she’ll get no fanfare from Grandma or anyone today.

Having the family spread all over Fresno and me having a weakened immune system already, my whole family is on edge. I live alone, and my kids are spread through every other corner of Fresno. My grandkids are out of reach. None of them want to take the chance of infecting me so they stay away but my family is my life and so depression is setting in because I can’t have them to hold. I spent my birthday locked inside. My granddaughter’s third birthday is today and she’ll get no fanfare from Grandma or anyone today. When I video chat with her she reaches for me through the phone and it suffocates me to not be able to feel her hands. I can’t afford to go get any food because not only do I live check-to-check off of SSID – and that barely covers my bills – but I can’t afford to be exposed to anything by going to the store. My side jobs that I did to make extra money for cleaning supplies, birthday gifts… car maintenance, etc. I cannot do any more out of fear and risk of contagion. There’s plenty of places offering food bags and things but I can’t leave to go get them and unable to find one that delivers. I understand the reason for isolation but I don’t understand why it took so long for our government to start acting on this virus and why there isn’t more help for us…. No family, no food, no money, no certainty of any outcomes. It’s almost like I’m just sitting here waiting to die.

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Mitzy Roque, Childcare Provider and Business Owner, Little Planet Family Childcare Chula Vista
Childcare provider Mitzy Roque reads to a group of children
We too, are fighting in the front lines along with and in direct support to our medical personnel… I hope that I don't have to close because I ran into health issues, out of supplies or into further debt.

“We too, are fighting in the front lines along with and in direct support to our medical personnel and first responders. We must be provided the same access and benefits as first responders. I want to remain open and hope that I don’t have to close because I ran into health issues, out of supplies or into further debt.”

Mitzy’s profile in the San Diego Tribune: 

Task during the pandemic: Providing childcare services for first responders by giving a safe and secure environment for their children so their parents can go to work worry free.

How has the pandemic changed your job?: It has created a new set of norms that have affected all families involved by implementing social distancing with parents and providing updates of awareness and education to children and parents related to COVID-19 and policy changes. These are applied to prevent the spread of the virus, safety and security of all involved, and trying to minimize anxiety and stress that affect all involved every day.

==> Read Mitzy’s full profile in the San Diego Tribune. 

==> Find out more about the work of YMCA of San Diego County

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Sandra, Childcare Provider at Sandra's Family Child Care Chula Vista
I normally have 14 children that I care for and due to this public health pandemic I now only have 4 children in my care ONLY because their parents are essential workers. It has also impacted my cleaning supplies as we are disinfecting more on a daily.

COVID-19 has impacted my business because this virus is very quick spreading and it has decreased the number of children that I normally have in my care. I normally have 14 children that I care for and due to this public health pandemic I now only have 4 children in my care ONLY because their parents are essential workers. It has also impacted my cleaning supplies as we are disinfecting more on a daily.

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Adrina, Parent Advocate Salinas
A brightly and beautifully painted mural on a wall reads "Salinas" in calligraphy
A view of our amazing and beautiful Monterey County, and a glimpse of the heavy dark clouds Poverty is playing in our state.

“A view of our amazing and beautiful Monterey County, and a glimpse of the heavy dark clouds Poverty is playing in our state,” says Adrina. Mother and parent advocate Adrina put this video together for End Child Poverty California to shine a light on Salinas and what’s happening with farmworker families  and families in poverty during the COVID-19 crisis and every day.

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Lucas Zucker, Policy & Communications Director, CAUSE Ventura County
You may see the people at the front desk of the hotel but you don’t see the housekeeping… who are already lower-paid workers, less likely to be tipped, and more likely to live paycheck to paycheck and who are now largely unemployed or severely unemployed.

Some of the hardest hit industries employ a huge number of undocumented workers and it is the invisible workers that really make up the backbone of those industries,” said Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director at CAUSE.

“You may see the people at the front desk of the hotel but you don’t see the housekeeping… who are already lower-paid workers, less likely to be tipped, and more likely to live paycheck to paycheck and who are now largely unemployed or severely unemployed,” said Zucker, who added that undocumented immigrants won’t receive $1,200 stimulus checks and can’t apply for unemployment insurance.

Read the full article about advocates pushing for a disaster relief fund for undocumented Californians here in the VC Star.

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Julieta, Madre y Trabajadora #CalEITCnow #MakeItForAll Campaign

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Fathers and Families of San Joaquin San Joaquin
Fathers & Families of San Joaquin reached out to our youth to survey their needs and found that food was the topmost on the list, among others like mental health support. We visited some of these youth’s home with bags for food drop off, but we could not satisfy all.

Fathers & Families of San Joaquin reached out to our youth to survey their needs and found that food was the topmost on the list, among others like mental health support. We visited some of these youth’s home with bags for food drop off, but we could not satisfy all. Our workers went to a Migrant’s camp also for a food drop, and it was a mixed feeling (experience) to see little ones happy when we brought food to their parents. Our children do not need to starve to death due to problems they know nothing about. Please save our kids by providing food for them in this terrible time of trial and trauma.

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Jessica Sommerville, Child Care Provider and Business Owner San Diego
Childcare provider Jessica Sommerville sits in front of a Christmas tree with two children on her lap
[The pandemic] has caused a severe impact on my income due to children not being able to attend. I am in a constant state of worry that one of the children or their family members will become ill, and then I would have to close down.

It is my duty as a licensed child care provider to provide the best care possible for all of my children, to support families during this difficult and stressful time and to provide continuity of care. However, often times we are unable to find supplies to maintain our stock of cleaning materials.

[The pandemic] has caused a severe impact on my income due to children not being able to attend. I am in a constant state of worry that one of the children or their family members will become ill, and then I would have to close down. On a positive note, we have been able to enjoy our outside environment for longer periods of time learning about our surroundings.

==> Read the full profile in the San Diego Tribune

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San Diego for Every Child, Anti-poverty & Child Care Advocates San Diego County
A first-responder recently recounted a story to us of having to leave their children in an air-conditioned car in order to perform the essential duties of their job… because paying for child care is cost prohibitive. [At the same time, in] the current crisis, most child care providers would be making more on unemployment than staying open. But as essential workers, they are actively and courageously serving because they know their communities need them.

We have heard multiple instances of hospital nurses having to watch each other’s children in their off-shifts, leaving them exhausted and ill-prepared for their time in-hospital. Here in San Diego, our child care system is intact, it is the expense of the additional hours (typically covered by school hours), which proves cost-prohibitive for these nurses.

A first-responder recently recounted a story to us of having to leave their children in an air-conditioned car in order to perform the essential duties of their job. Again, because paying for child care is cost prohibitive.

Child care reimbursement rates do not reflect the true cost of care. In the current crisis, most child care providers would be making more on unemployment than staying open. But as essential workers, they are actively and courageously serving because they know their communities need them. After COVID-19 is over, we have to recognize this system as a critical piece of emergency response and support it in a way that values, and no longer exploits, this critical workforce.

Report from the field from San Diego for Every Child, 5/1/20

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Father John Pedigo, Catholic Charities Santa Clara County Santa Clara County
80% of people coming into get food now are coming in to get it for the first time. The situation is dire. We’re dealing with three crises at once: the pandemic, the economic collapse, and massive hunger.

Father Jon Pedigo of Catholic Charities Santa Clara County speaks during a video legislative call with Rep. Zoe Lofgren as part of the End Child Poverty California movement

80% of people coming into get food now are coming in to get it for the first time. The situation is dire. We’re dealing with three crises at once: the pandemic, the economic collapse, and massive hunger.

-Father Jon Pedigo, Director of Advocacy and Community Engagement, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, in a 5/1/20 End Child Poverty California legislative video call with Rep. Zoe Lofgren

==> Visit the Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County site.

 

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Anna Hasselblad, United Ways of California California
When we walk someone through a tax refund process, it’s not uncommon for them to burst into tears when they find out that they’ll be receiving a tax refund. That’s how much even $500 means to a family.

Anna Hasselblad of United Way California speaks from her home office during a legislative visit with Rep. Zoe Lofgren on Zoom

More than ever, it’s essential to address the needs of children and families. Most families will receive about two thousand dollars in the next two months, and that doesn’t include families who don’t earn enough to receive the tax credits.

At United Ways, when we walk someone through a tax refund process, it’s not uncommon for them to burst into tears when they find out that they’ll be receiving a tax refund. That’s how much even $500 means to a family.

-Anna Hasselblad, Director of Public Policy, United Ways of California, in End Child Poverty California movement federal legislative video calls with Rep. Adam Schiff (4/28/20) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (5/1/20)

==> Find out more about how families are struggling to stay afloat in California. 

 

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Jeff Weiner, Center for Children and Youth at Jewish Family and Children’s Services San Francisco
We’ve seen an increase tenfold for people ‘s demand for food–new and old clients. The rising need is quickly depleting our food bank, the shelves are nearly bare.

The demand for our food has exploded. We’ve seen an increase tenfold in people’s demand for food–new and old clients.

For many people, it’s shifted from a supplemental supply of food to their main source. We have runners who deliver food to people who must stay at home. We have shoppers who do grocery shopping for people who must stay at home.

The rising need is quickly depleting our food bank, the shelves are nearly bare.

-Jeff Weiner, Director of Public Policy, Center for Children and Youth at Jewish Family and Children’s Services

==> Jewish Family Services is one of the largest service providers in the Bay Area. Click here to find out more.

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Jevon Wilkes, California Connection for Youth Sacramento
A formal portrait of Jevon Wilkes, Executive Director of California Coalition for Youth, wearing a button down shirt and yellow tie
The fragile spark of potential that my colleagues and I work so hard to fan in each young person is being extinguished. It was a tough battle before COVID-19. Now, vulnerable young people are facing existential threats and the loss of any conviction about what a brighter future could look like.

As voices everywhere speak about “our common experience of suffering” during the COVID-19 pandemic, we risk obscuring the struggles of our already marginalized young people — youth who are homeless, those being trafficked, and those involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems.

For those youth and young adults, the pandemic preys on their pre-existing conditions of trauma, victimization and pervasive insecurity.

As the executive director of California Coalition for Youth (CCY) and director of Youth Engagement for the California Children’s Trust, I’ve heard directly from many youth who are struggling now more than ever.

What I’m seeing is hard. And I know hard.

When I was 14 years old, I was homeless for months and spent my childhood and whole adolescent life in and out of foster care. I remember the daily panic and deep fear I felt as I worried about having a place to sleep at night. For a young person living on the streets during COVID-19, that panic and fear are multiplied many times over.

-Jevon Wilkes, California Coalition for Youth, in the Chronicle of Social Change, 5/4/20

==> Read the full article

==> Visit the California Coalition for Youth website

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Stacy Lee, Children Now California
We could lose up to 4.5 million child care slots as a result of this crisis, including losing an estimated 51% in California if child care providers don’t receive support in the next few weeks.

Screenshot of Stacy Lee from Children Now speaking on a video conference call with Congressmember Anna Eshoo

Because of the existing fragility of the system of care, a recent national analysis showed that we could lose up to 4.5 million child care slots as a result of this crisis, including losing an estimated 51% in California if child care providers don’t receive support in the next few weeks. In addition, the cost of providing care in this new environment is higher. Child care providers have to lower ratios, constantly clean equipment, toys and facilities and were not provided the supplies, funding or protective gear to meet the new requirements. The two main requests of the End Child Poverty coalition related to child care are:

-provide immediate support to child care workers, to serve essential workers and waive family fees for subsidized childcare providers for families earning less than 250% of the Federal Poverty Line

-pay providers to cover ongoing COVID-19 operating costs whether they are open and serving families or needed to close due to stay at home orders.

-Stacy Lee, Managing Director, Early Childhood Project Integration at Children Now, on an April 30, 2020, advocacy call with Representative Anna Eshoo

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Martine Singer, Children's Institute Los Angeles
We are seeing unbelievable needs…. At one of our partner schools in Watts, out of 350 students, 150 are unaccounted for. We’re really looking at a lost generation of students at this point. The services for pre-k through community college are so crucial.

We are seeing unbelievable needs. In the last 6 weeks we’ve already distributed 30,000 diapers, thousands of meals and other essentials like soap, and the demand is getting greater every day. We’ve provided 700 digital devices to preschool-age kids, because the digital divide affects them too, not just the K-12 students.  We are the safety net — the wraparound services – and we’re keeping kids engaged. At one of our partner schools in Watts, out of 350 students, 150 are unaccounted for. We’re really looking at a lost generation of students at this point. The services for pre-k through community college are so crucial.

– Martine Singer, President & CEO, Children’s Institute, in a 5/12/20 End Child Poverty California legislative video call with Rep. Jimmy Gomez

==> Visit the Children’s Institute’s website

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Andrea Nuñez Chula Vista
My in-laws did not see their mother and she just died and had 3 children… the daughters here are crying with the pain of not having seen their mother anymore.

This crisis affected us in the saddest way, since the beginning of the year we were struggling with my sick mother-in-law. She lived in Tijuana and we decided to bring her to Chula Vista to take care of her.  I had to give up one of my jobs and volunteering in my community to be able to take care of her and take her to Tijuana for emergency visits and to accompany her when she was hospitalized in Tijuana.  I would leave my children here, with my husband about to lose his job due to work absences [because of the family illness]. Almost a week ago my mother-in-law finally passed, and we have to go through the sadness of not being able to watch her and not being able to attend a mass on her behalf accompanied by family and friends.  Yesterday we finally decided to cremate her body and we took her ashes to her house to wait for this crisis to pass.

Also, there is so much information floating around that they will close the border and we have to be going back and forth, and the jobs that I had cleaning houses have also been suspended for the moment. With the fear of contamination entering and leaving hospitals.

For those of us who have parents in Tijuana, we can at least cross, but there are others who, for 15 to 20 years have not been able to see their parents.  My in-laws did not see their mother and she just died and had 3 children, only one was able to be there and was the one who buried her.  The child who lived with her and the daughters here are crying with the pain of not having seen their mother anymore.

I suffer from high blood pressure due to stress, they had to take me to the emergency room two times to control it. I can only imagine for my husband how difficult things are; his work, his mother, and I, in addition to the economy, all very difficult. The good thing is that we had a credit card that we have been able to use, but while we have health and life, God will provide….

-Andrea Nuñez, Community Advocate, Chula Vista, California

A nosotros esta crisis nos afectó de la manera más triste, desde inicio de año estuvimos batallando con mi suegra enferma ella vivía en Tijuana y decidimos traerla a Chula vista CA para cuidarla tuve q renunciar a uno de mis trabajos y mi voluntariado en mi comunidad para cuidarla y llevarla a Tijuana a emergencias y acompañarla cuando quedaba hospitalizada en Tijuana dejando a mis hijos aquí mi esposo a punto de perder el trabajo por faltas.  Hace casi una semana finalmente mi suegra murió, y tenemos que pasar por la tristeza de no poder velarla y no poder asistir a una misa en su nombre acompañados de familia y amigos, ayer finalmente decidimos incinerarla y llevamos sus cenizas a su casa a esperar q esta crisis pase

Además, con tanta información de que cerrarían la frontera y nosotros tenemos que estar entrando y saliendo, y los trabajos que yo tenía limpiando casas también suspendidos por el momento.  Con el miedo de un contagiarnos entrando y saliendo de hospitales

Para los que tenemos padres en Tijuana, nosotros por lo menos podemos cruzar, pero hay otros que hacia 15 o 20 años no veían a su madre y acaba de morir y de ser 3 hijos solo la velo, y la enterró uno de ellos, el que vivía allá con ella y las hijas aquí llorando la pena de no haber visto más a su madre.

Yo padezco de presión alta y por el estrés tuvieron que llevarme a urgencias 2 veces para controlarla, imagínate para mi marido que difícil; el trabajo, su madre y yo además de lo económico muy difícil.  Lo bueno que su tarjeta de crédito soportó, pero mientras hay salud y vida Dios proveerá…

-Andrea Nuñez, líder comunitario, Chula Vista, California

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Ceci Boison Chula Vista
In the community, one can see the entire economy fall apart. People who lost their jobs, how they will pay for their house and meals?

To whom it May concern;

How is this crisis affecting me?  To begin with, I cannot be with my close family or relatives and vice versa, as for food, we are measuring ourselves as to not overspend. I do not visit the doctor, even though I need to go to the dentist and I won’t be able to for now.

In the community, one can see the entire economy fall apart. How will schools end their school year? People who lost their jobs, how they will pay for their house and meals?

From home, I can only help with my prayers and comic videos I share with my friends to make them laugh for a while.

Si Se Puede! Yes we can!

-Ceci Boison, Community Advocate, Chula Vista, California

A quien corresponda; 

Como me esta afectando a mi esta crisis – Para empezar, no puedo estar con mi familia cercana ni familiares y viceversa, pues en comida si nos estamos midiendo y no visitas al dr. Necesito ir al dentista y no podre por lo pronto. 

En la comunidad no se diga toda la economía se vino abajo.  Las escuelas como van a terminar su ciclo escolar.  Las personas que se quedaron sin trabajo.  Como pagaran sus casa y comidas.

Yo por pronto de casa ayudo con mis oraciones y videos cómicos para reír un rato.

¡Si Se Puede!

-Ceci Boison, líder comunitario, Chula Vista, California

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Kenneth Chancey Los Angeles
A picture of Kenneth Chancey from National Foster Youth Institute standing outside a building smiling in a suit
While the child welfare system is menacing and traumatizing, young people who have emancipated from the system have more than just strength and tenacity – they have found in themselves a reason to live and to continue pushing forward.

I have been homeless. I resided at the Union Rescue Mission in Skid Row for two years with my father and younger sister, just over a decade ago. My father was, and still is a very capable parent – a fact conceded by the Los Angeles Superior Court system when he was ordered full custody during a hearing between my parents. Instead of ensuring housing could be provided for us as a family unit, he was tasked with providing a roof over our head, and a social worker recommended Union Rescue Mission. In 2008, that is where we went – assigned a room just large enough for two bunk beds and a mini-fridge, with a court order that included mandated therapy, case worker visits, parenting classes for my father, and supervised visits anytime we wanted to see my youngest brother who was still in the system.

I am sure much thought went into the decision to release my sister and I to my father. The case went on for years and the court order provided the stability I had long yearned for, even if it resulted in me living in a small room, in one of the longest running homeless shelters in Skid Row. The court order was not well-rounded though. Most importantly, it was missing housing assistance – I was ordered to live on Skid Row by the Los Angeles County child welfare system (please let that sink in), and it wasn’t temporary, nor was it transitional. It was missing clothing assistance – my sister and I relied on the Union Rescue Missions “closet” to replace what we lost moving from placement to placement while we were in care. It was missing flexibility – my father was forced to miss work and needed income to fulfill his parenting class mandates, and to maintain his custody of his children. It was missing care – with my little brother’s placement forcing my sister and I on the bus to go see him, it meant we didn’t see him as often as we’d hoped; It was a 3 hour bus ride for us, but a 45 minute drive for my little brother’s case worker. It was missing love – a reminder that there was no impactful follow-up nor beneficial regard for what our lives would look like years after we were ordered out of the child welfare system.

I lost my sister to the streets when she was 24, a transition aged youth, on September 13, 2017. She was homeless, and the Los Angeles County child welfare system failed her. I miss her everyday, and everyday of my life I work to lift the voices of the transition aged youth who are still here. I have helped Fortune 500 companies at a PR Firm, and I have written legislation for one of the largest cities in the country: Los Angeles. But I have loved no work more than the work at The National Foster Youth Institute, and alongside the EndChildPoverty campaign, which allows me to hear the stories of young people who remind me of my younger sister.

While the child welfare system is menacing and traumatizing, young people who have emancipated from the system have more than just strength and tenacity – they have found in themselves a reason to live and to continue pushing forward. Despite a system that seems to be designed to keep them at their lowest, I have met young poets and creative artists whose empowering work gives me goosebumps. Despite a system that habitually seeks to destroy the will of our youth, I have met some of the most unbreakable spirits who, despite being unable to access love in the child welfare system, continue to love with abundance, even for those who loved them too little. Despite a system designed to control youth in it’s care, I have met young people whose optimism for their future demonstrates they are in full command of their own destiny’s and their freedom.

The trials young adults must overcome as a result of the child welfare system create significant barriers to growth, but despite it all, tens of thousands of transition-aged youth continue to push forward. We are all worthy of love. And when my sister was experiencing her darkest moments, a system designed to protect her should have been there to catch her when she fell off her feet – to show her she was worthy of love. It wasn’t there for my sister, but as we navigate a most uncertain future, it must be there for those young adults who are still here. For those aspiring artists and freedom fighters, for those parents seeking to provide the best for their kids, for young survivors of the system like myself who have had to question their success every step of the way, we must end child poverty NOW, and break a system that has resulted in the loss of life of too many of our young brothers and sisters. We must bring about an end to a vicious cycle that oppresses liveliness, and conditions our youth to cope with a broken system we know needs beneficial transformation. It will take a village, but we must demonstrate respect for our youth and provide them with the love they are worthy of receiving.

-Kenneth Chancey, Policy and Organizing Manager,
National Foster Youth Institute

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