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Mel Gravely

The Gravely Group 2020 Year in Review

We’ve been doing these Year in Review posts for eight years now. We’ve seen some tough times, like in 2013 when the federal government was forced to cut back across the board through sequestration. But we’ve also seen some great times, like the nationwide celebration of 50 years of Head Start just two years later. But let me tell ya, even in its 50 long years, Head Start has never seen a year like 2020.

When it became clear in mid-to-early March that the United States was experiencing out-of-control community spread of the novel coronavirus, practically the entire country went on shutdown. Schools, retail, restaurants, and public buildings closed. Office workers began working remotely. The Gravely Group went 100% online with all our trainings. And like everyone and everything else, Head Start went into shutdown too…

The Gravely Group was there to help guide you through. Throughout the year, we followed the pandemic and it’s repercussions for Head Start on our blog. Our first post came on March 31, a couple weeks after the shutdown in Ohio (our home state). It was then that we began to understand the implications of the shutdown for Head Start families. In “Head Start and COVID-19: What you need to know,” we wrote:

“[W]ith the closure of many schools and programs across the country, its left families with the challenge of not just keeping their kids safe at home, but how to properly educate them too.”

At the time, the newly-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act gave a one-time cash infusion to Head Start to help it shore up services, as well as provided additional funding to families through other federal programs, such as food stamps, housing assistance, and unemployment insurance.

A month and a half later, as cases began to drop and there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel, we started to ask ourselves, “What happens next?”

In our blog , What to expect for Head Start after COVID-19, we mused,

“September seems so far from now, doesn’t it? Where will things stand at that time? Will school be back in session? Even as states begin cautiously reopening some businesses, schools remain closed. However, most expect that school will be back in session in the fall.”

Oh how naive we were.

As the summer continued on, there were spikes in cases. As the curve seemingly went down, it inevitably went back up again.

In the midst of all this, Office of Head Start issued announcements on additional funding and flexibility for programs to meet the challenges they were faced with during the pandemic. It was welcome news for programs worried about losing funding due to circumstances outside their control.

As the shutdown dragged on, so did shutdown fatigue. Children were stuck inside without their regular social interactions with peers. Fear and loneliness can seriously affect a child’s mental health. In Strategies to Help Children Cope with the COVID-19 Pandemic, we quote OHS Director, Dr. Deborah Bergeron.

“Fundamentally, children just want to know that they’re loved and protected. They want to know that they still have the stable base that they’re used to from their caregivers,” Dr. Bergeron says.

By August, many programs still weren’t sure if they were going to reopen. Nevertheless, many had to start the planning process for an eventual reopening, so they could be prepared. We wrote several blogs to help programs navigate through it.

For those programs that decided to remain remote for the time being, we wanted to make sure we were providing some resources there as well in our blog: “Serving Families in a Remote Environment: Tips for Family Services Staff.”

Oh, and I think there was a big election somewhere in all of that.

Now, in December 2020, nine months after the nationwide shutdown first began, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel, which has come in the form of highly-effective vaccines.

Sadly, the repercussions of this pandemic will likely be with us for a long time. For example, I wrote two blogs about how the coronavirus pandemic has the potential of creating other public health emergencies. People are putting off regular health screenings. And some states saw an uptick in opioid overdoses. I also worry about the potential of Head Start or other low income children falling behind while they were out of school. Unfortunately, we wont fully know those effects for a while. Here’s an article from USA Today on that topic just this week.

Thank you for following The Gravely Group on our blog and social media. Whether it’ll be in-person or virtually, we look forward to continue engaging with you in 2021.

Other 2020 News from The Gravely Group

2020 wasn’t all COVID-19 News. We still did our best to provide Head Start professionals with information throughout the year to help them manage their program.

Here are some of those articles:

How to Set Impasse Procedures for your Head Start Board & Policy Council

Sharing Ongoing Child Assessment Data Encourages Better Family Engagement

How Attachment Theory Can Help Improve our Parent Engagement Strategy in Head Start

How Involved Fathers are Forging New Ground

Communication Methods that Work with Head Start Parents

Inviting Head Start Families as Co-Trainers

Developing Marketing Materials Specifically for Father Engagement

OHS Announces Update to Designation Renewal System


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