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Securing Atlanta's Future Thought Leadership

Embracing Families with Open Arms

By Blythe Keeler Robinson, President and CEO, Sheltering Arms 

Over the past few weeks, people across the entire country have had to make adjustments as we settle into a “new normal.” Many families have had to adjust to the new household arrangements of turning spaces into make-shift offices and homeschool classrooms. 

Families went from juggling busy schedules to being confined under one roof, and now, trying to tackle the nuances of virtual learning while explaining why playdates are cancelled and graduation ceremonies are postponed. It can be quite chaotic.

In a sense, schools and childcare centers provided routine and stability. 

And, for many of metro Atlanta’s children, we are a safe haven – a place where they can receive love, attention and hot meals.

The impact of the coronavirus is immensely amplified for low-income families. Many are already living paycheck to paycheck. In March, United Way 2-1-1 fielded more than 3,000 requests for rent and mortgage assistance because families are having to choose between rent and food. In addition, many parents are hourly workers and cannot telecommute from home. They either have to scurry to find alternative childcare or be faced with the tough decision to leave their children at home alone or with family members, which may pose a risk of neglect or abuse. 

The reality is, as people and businesses go back to what was considered “normal,” many Sheltering Arms families will continue to struggle. Recovery will take much longer, and for some, it may not happen at all. Lives are forever changed.

What can we, as a society, do about it? 

In the longer-term, we can help push policies in place to protect children and families. Benefits like paid-time off, family and sick leave, quality childcare, and incentive-based resources are among the systems needed to bridge the wealth gap in keeping low-income families living above water.

These types of interventions for all economically-marginalized families will need inclusion and equity-driven practices to achieve socio-economic mobility long past the resolution to this virus.

In the short-term, help is on the way! 

Sheltering Arms is the recipient of a $250,000 grant from the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, responding to the ongoing needs of our families for diapers, formula, and essential hygiene items to help them stabilize during the crisis.

Sheltering in place has taught us that we’re connected to one another.  

In times beyond these, let’s continue to work together to embrace our communities with open arms.

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