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Emergency funding supports telehealth counseling for children, families

By Marti Benedetti for Crain’s Content Studio

Therapy for a 10-year-old battling depression and treatment for teens combating substance abuse can’t be put on hold during a pandemic.

The same holds true for adoption services and early childhood development counseling: there is no universal pause button for health and wellness; children and families can’t wait for the world to get back to any form of “normal” in order for help to resume.

So when COVID-19 took hold of Michigan in March, Oakland Family Services didn’t waste a minute or a resource in ensuring its crucial work could continue within the parameters of social distancing.

The Pontiac-based organization, which turns 100 next year, offers key wraparound services for youth and families across Oakland County, including individual and group therapy for teens, school-aged children and families, as well as adoption and foster care programs.

The day that Michigan’s shelter in place order took effect, Oakland Family Services committed to taking most of its services online.

It did so with the help of a $10,000 grant from The Children’s Foundation.

The COVID-19 grant enabled Oakland Family Services to purchase devices for offering telehealth mental health services in lieu of in-person visits. Children have access to therapy for depression, anxiety and addiction via a gift of a laptop, tablet or smart phone. The technology has helped families in its programs connect with others via Zoom, a web-based videoconferencing tool. Even the organization’s Fussy Baby Home Visiting program is continuing through Zoom.

“Our buildings are closed but we are open,” said Jaimie Clayton, the organization’s president and CEO, about its motto during this unprecedented time. Clayton said The Children’s Foundation “got rid of the red tape” and made the grant application and disbursement of funds seamless.

Eighty percent of the families helped by Oakland Family Services are impoverished. The need for its services has jumped during the pandemic. “The no-show rates of our clients are down,” Clayton said. “We expect a flood (of people).”

In the wake of the pandemic, the organization had to cancel its only annual fundraiser, a Building a Brighter Future Breakfast, that had been scheduled for April. The emergency fund disbursement fills a need as well as a funding gap.

“The Children’s Foundation prides itself on our nimbleness, forward thinking and ability to quickly react – and this has never been more important than during this current crisis situation,” said Lawrence J. Burns, president and CEO of The Children’s Foundation.

“Upon communicating with our partners to determine their needs, we expedited emergency grants to them within days that made a tremendous difference for them both operationally and for the families they serve.”

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