Worker’s-eye View: Solidarity with those on the margins needed now more than ever

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I work for The Children’s Village in New York City as a family therapist. It’s a nonprofit organization funded by the city’s Administrative Child Services Agency and the state Office of Child and Family Services. 

I work with children who have had problems with antisocial behavior. I regularly connect with family, schools, guidance counselors and probation officers and report back to the government agencies on how the kids are doing. 

Since the federal government mandated measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, direct service workers like me have shifted to phone or video contacts. We were given the directive to stop in-person meetings with the families in need unless they presented high-risk concerns that couldn’t be solved through calls. 

Families worry about their privacy being violated, and that’s justified because the way we interact now is less secure. My kids are all living with their parents. But for children in foster care, things are much worse because they can’t see their parents one-on-one right now. 

My job is definitely harder with technology coming between me and the people I serve. It’s harder for me to evaluate how everyone is doing because I can’t observe the situation in homes directly. 

My workload is also heavier because the state agency has asked for us to have contact with families every day instead of three times a week as it was before. This is important because everyone is now home. 

Most of the parents are restaurant workers or employed in other businesses that have been shut down. So almost everyone has been laid off. They are stressed by their loss of income. My families are undocumented, so they get no unemployment benefits or stimulus money and have no healthcare. 

They worry about infection, but even more about financial concerns. That increases the anxiety for everyone. One caregiver of a client reported that because he has lost employment due to the crisis, he anticipates that he will most likely get sick from the economic burden that will accumulate as the months elapse, rather than falling ill from the virus. 

Thousands of working families across New York City are in this situation due to hesitation and denial by state and city officials, and their refusal to take radical actions to cancel all types of basic expenses such as rent, electricity, and heat. There is a two-month moratorium on evictions in the city. But the rent payments are still due, so people who can’t pay will be in an even worse financial position at the end of the two months. 

The state and federal governments provide some money directly to agencies like mine to use at their discretion for crisis relief. They distribute it to assist their clients during emergencies. We did that after Hurricane Sandy and will during this pandemic. But it’s only enough money to provide one month’s rent. That is not nearly enough. 

The longer this crisis goes on, the worse it will be for disadvantaged workers and children, especially those in foster placement. 

The undocumented need solidarity right now from the documented!

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