Assoc. of Relief Nurseries struggles to bridge technology gap

MEDFORD, Ore. — A non-profit called the Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries works to prevent child abuse. The non-profit helps low-income and struggling families who are raising children from birth through age 5.

Even with many of their services now virtual, they’re still fighting to meet the growing demands of the community.

“This pandemic has taken an already fragile family system and elevated that,” said Cara Copeland, executive director for Oregon Association of Relief Nurseries.

Social isolation is a major risk factor for child abuse and neglect. That’s what the association is fighting to prevent by helping families struggling with trauma or financial difficulties.

“They’re not sure if they’re going to continue to stay housed, they’re not sure if they’re going to be able to feed their children and to make sure they don’t lose custody,” she said.

Copeland says the non-profit has worked to meet the growing demands of the state by switching many of their services online.

“We are doing our home visits to families via a variety of platforms, we are dropping off food, diaper, clothing, wipes formula… delivering them to families because many of our families don’t have transportation,” she said.

Still, Copeland says the biggest issue they’re facing is a technology divide. That’s especially visible in  rural areas like Jackson or Josephine County.

“We serve folks all the way out to Wilderville, Murphy, Cave Junction that’s honestly the only way we’ve be able to reach them, is through some kind of technology,” said Lisa O’Connor, executive director of the Family Nurturing Center in Jackson and Josephine Counties.

To remedy the issue, O’Connor says they’ve created a help line for local families who need emotional support or deliveries of basic need items.

Since last Friday, she says they delivered items to about 400 families.

“We’ve had parents look for help for potty training while they’re home with their kids, we’ve had parents ask for desks so they have an appropriate place for kids to work at,” said O’Connor.

The pandemic has undoubtedly forced the association to adapt. And with the demand for their services growing in under-served communities, both Copeland and O’Connor say they’re not giving up on finding solutions.

“Parenting is hard under the best of circumstances and under these circumstances we want people to know that they’re not alone. And we’re here to help,” said O’Connor.

The association has launched an initiative asking for donations in the form of technological devices, money, or expertise.

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