Schools, counselors search for ways to support Vermont’s at-risk youth during pandemic

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Being home should be considered a safe space for many, but that is not always the case. Some kids rely on school or other activities to get away from neglect or abuse.

Many school districts and youth organizations are figuring out ways to stay connected and check in with at-risk youth when they cannot physically be together. Sarah Murphy, a guidance counselor at J.F.K elementary school in Winooski, said this new normal has been challenging.

“It’s been difficult as a counselor I think being in the school,” she said. “I’m able to get a really quick read and pulse on kids just by standing by the front door when they walk in every day. We are trying to maintain a sense of normalcy when it’s anything but.”

Murphy said the school is offering daily check-ins for students through phone calls, e-mails or video platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangout. She recognizes that for students may need additional support.

“Those are the kiddos that more than one adult are trying to reach out to really regularly,” said Murphy.

School districts want students and their families to know that community resources are still available and to not be afraid to call if they are experiencing issues at home.

“We have a number of different providers who are connected to the school and so, there are really some close partnerships and what we are trying to do is support students to continue to try and access those services,” said LICSW Declan McDaid with the Winosski School District.

Other youth services across the state say they are also in an adjustment period. Many are switching their crucial services to online platforms.

“It’s largely working and we are seeing that the services we are providing, ya know people are responding. People are still coming in and showing up to meetings even when they are happening virtually,” said Washington County Youth Service Bureau Executive Director Krieg Pinkham.

Even if students don’t want help, many educators, councilors, and others say they will always be available.

“We really are thinking of them and care for them and we are there for them and we have resources for them,” said Murphy.

Additional hotlines and resources are listed below:

DCF Helplines and Hotlines

Vermont Parents’ Helpline

Center Point Services

Howard Center

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