Each year, BELL engages family housing providers in Philadelphia by using the Administration for Children and Families (ACF)’s Self-Assessment Tool for Shelters, an assessment designed to help shelter staff members create residential environments that are safe and developmentally appropriate for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
As we gear up for the Fall 2022 Self-assessments, Beth McLean, Director of Residential Services for Drueding Center, gave insight on her experiences with the tool and the process. She stated, “There are learning points. There are things we learned we can post and make available [to clients] and learn from.” McLean noted that over the years, Drueding staff discussed the process as a team and shared information they learned with each other. She said last year was her first time completing the tool, and that “The process has helped [me] think more about their needs.” McLean also shared one challenge, “...is having to think about some of the categories and how they are represented here.” Drueding is a transitional housing program, and, “Answering questions on Food and Nutrition, for example, when our residents have their own units, I have to think about what that might look like here.”
As Drueding’s ECE Specialist, I also reflected on one of the challenges, but greatest outcomes of Drueding’s Self-Assessment process - seeing Drueding reestablish their connection with the Health Federation of Philadelphia-Early Head Start (EHS). Drueding staff knew about Early Head Start and had been engaged with them in the past, but that connection had changed over time. This is where the BELL team was helpful in leading to that all important “aha moment!” BELL fostered the re-connection with EHS - a new goal had just been added to their Action Plan!
Charlene Heeney, Community Involvement Specialist, for Health Federation of Philadelphia-EHS, recalled, “Prior to COVID, EHS did have a partnership with Drueding. We serviced many families and held socialization groups in the bright space area, where interested parents would also come to learn about EHS and enroll in the program. Unfortunately, due to staff turnover, our connection seemed to dwindle and re-establishing a primary point of contact wasn't easy.” After a few conversations with both organizations, we decided that I would facilitate a virtual “Partners Meet and Greet." During our partner’s meeting, leaders shared information about their respective programs, discussed COVID realities, client needs, and next steps. When speaking with Heeney about the meeting, she said, “After the zoom partner’s meeting, we were thrilled. We are so excited to be connected with Beth McLean and able to discuss our partnership directly with her! It is awesome to know we have such a supportive group of people working together to benefit so many families.”
When asked if she felt there were any gains that came from the meeting, Heeney stated, “Immediately following that meeting, we hit the ground running! We worked with an intern at Drueding to record a virtual Q & A video answering any questions parents may have about the program and explaining the program in detail. We dropped off information and giveaways from EHS and Drueding created a resource table to share the information. We were invited to attend the Back-to-School event at Drueding as vendors, where we received referrals from four families, two of which enrolled the following week!” Charlene’s sentiments seem to sum it up best, “The future is bright! We look forward to continuing work with Drueding to provide the families interested in our program with the comprehensive services EHS offers! We appreciate the support from the BELL project and cannot wait to join Drueding at more events and recruitment opportunities!”
This is the perfect example of how partnering together can lead from assessment to connections that work for families experiencing homelessness! We look forward to this year’s Self-Assessment process, with all our housing facilities, beginning October 2022!
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