A Family Preservation Provider Sees ‘Fearful,’ Hungry Parents

At Shields for Families, access to food is a pressing issue for families that the nonprofit serves. Photo: stock

After Los Angeles County residents stripped many markets bare over the past week, staff at Shields for Families in South Los Angeles are expecting a big turnout for its weekly food bank on Thursday.

Chief Executive Officer Kathryn Icenhower said access to food is the number one concern among families served by the nonprofit, which provides family preservation and substance abuse disorder services to families involved with L.A. County’s child welfare system as well as other supportive services to families who are at high risk of coming into contact with the system.

“The big thing we’ve seen with our navigation services is that we’ve had a huge increase in the number of calls for food and people wanting to know where they can find food,” Icenhower said.

Shields for Families, like many providers, is grappling with a changing landscape on a daily basis. Starting on Monday, staff older than 65 had to work from home if possible, and younger workers were picking up the slack.

For now the organization’s residential treatment programs for substance use issues are remaining open, deemed an “essential service” by L.A. County. Shields is also hoping to continue providing less intensive substance use treatment, but many parents served by the nonprofit are worried about contracting the virus by coming into the organization’s offices to receive services, according to Icenhower.

“There are programs where they still need to come in to get services, and obviously that’s not real high on their list of things to do right now, and I don’t blame them,” she said. “They’re fearful of coming around a group that’s also high risk to get the virus.”

Today, Icenhower said L.A. County granted her counselors the ability to conduct some substance use disorder services remotely, after the state said it would allow counselors to use phone services to stay connected with many clients. The list of approved telephone services for those individual, case management, crisis, collateral and recovery support meetings. Anything outside of that must be seen in the office.

Whether by phone or in person, connecting with worried clients will remain a key challenge for substance use providers, Icenhower said.

“I’m very fearful for the treatment system if we can’t make adjustments,” Icenhower said. “As it stands, unless something changes, we’re fee for service providers. If our clients don’t come in, we don’t get paid.”

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Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change
About Jeremy Loudenback, Senior Editor, The Chronicle of Social Change 342 Articles
Jeremy is a West Coast-based senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jeremyloudenback@chronicleofsocialchange.org.