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Dear St. David’s Center Parents,

Before the week comes to a close, I want to take a moment to summarize the results of our planning, the new decisions that have emerged as a result of the Governor’s order on Wednesday this week, what this means for you and our staff team right now, and a bit about the resources we’re seeking to help us survive as a nonprofit and remain a strong employer and valuable resource for the community.

Results of our Planning this Week:

We are better-prepared for an extended period of disruption in our programs and services, as a result of this past week of planning. We are:

  • Far readier to provide telehealth as a main vehicle for services
  • Committed to continuing to respond to children and family needs with a set of creative strategies
  • Largely equipped with technology to engage children and families
  • Ready to advocate for government and philanthropic resources to support expenses while revenue is down

We’ve heard from many of you this week. With schools closed, so much of the routine of our lives as parents changes. Many of you are becoming teachers as you parent, and many are working, while parenting and providing support for school-age children’s distance learning requirements. Given the economic turbulence, a significant group of you have experienced your own transitions out of employment or to reduced hours.

We’ve also paid attention to enrollment and cancellations. There’s been a dramatic drop in enrollment in our Early Childhood Education Program and high cancellation rates in Pediatric Therapy and Children’s Mental Health Clinics. While we’re moving to telemedicine for all clinical services, with your agreement and when appropriate and possible, and virtual preschool and support for children of all abilities, we are now clear that our center-based services are the most dramatically affected, as a result of increased demands on parents as well as school closures.

Decisions Stemming from Executive Order and Findings from the Past Two Weeks

The Governor announced on Wednesday afternoon this week an executive order to “shelter in place.” We made the decision to remain closed for center-based services for the time being to do our part in slowing the community spread of the virus, while launching or continuing to implement telehealth and virtual learning and support as our primary vehicles for service. The Governor’s order is effective from midnight tonight to 5 pm April 10. Again, those services are the Early Childhood Education Program, the Autism Day Treatment and School Age Day Treatment Programs, Family Place, Children’s Mental Health and Pediatric Therapy at all four locations. There’s one exception: we will continue to honor the Governor’s order to ensure childcare for healthcare, emergency, and other essential workers.

Impact on our Workforce: Your Children’s Therapists and Teachers

We are launching telehealth in Pediatric Therapy, continuing to engage families enrolled in center-based mental health services in telehealth, and piloting virtual learning in three classrooms next week and the balance the week of April 6. This “ramp” into new program models means we have fairly significant reduced job assignments until families are fully engaged or until we can return to group programming. That means that the number of hours for our staff ranges from no hours needed at this time to full-time assignments, with the majority being partial hours aligned with family engagement or enrollment in services.

As hard as this is to say, the wisest decision we could make right now is to ensure our staff use the resources of the state’s safety net to offset reduced income while we get through this time. If we rely only on the skill of our Community Relations team and an abundance of hope for millions of dollars in grants and loans, we risk St. David’s Center’s viability both in the short and long-term. If we take more dramatic measures now, leaning into the state’s expanded safety net, we will not only be the valued service provider you’ve come to trust, we’ll continue to be an employer of choice for hundreds of brilliant, highly-skilled, compassionate people I’m honored to call my colleagues. My hope is that within weeks to months, we can restore positions as the virus’ impact diminishes and our full community of families re-engages in services.

Potential Resources and Advocacy

Our Community Relations team is working hard to identify resources – rescue grants, other sources of charitable support, and government loans – for which we’re eligible to apply. Unfortunately, this week’s $2 trillion CARES Act/Coronavirus bill has wonderful support for nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees including forgivable loans, but did not include any funding for mid-sized nonprofits like ours. We’re building an advocacy plan that we’ll take to the next level this next week. We will need every voice we can find when the time is right for legislator calls and emails, and I hope you have the energy and willingness to be part of the effort.

As I close, I hope you all know how much we’ve held you and your children in our thoughts this week. At every turn, our staff talked about what life is like for many of you, what’s become really challenging these past several weeks, and what we might be able to do to support you as parents. On behalf of all 544 of our staff, thank you for your trust, your grace and understanding, and your commitment to staying the course as we all find our way.

With gratitude for each of you,

Julie Sjordal, CEO

St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development

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