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Ways to help children, families under study

Grandparents are raising their grandchildren, they have very little technical skills and have a hard time helping the students with schoolwork due to these issues. How can educators and agency personnel help students and families in this situation?

By Linda Waggener

Dr. Michael Ford, Superintendent of Russell County Schools, and Tracy Aaron, Health Education Director, Lake Cumberland District Health Department, were among the leaders of the Kentucky Youth Advocates' Bounce Coalition workshop held virtually this spring.

The mission was to discover more ways to provide help to children in adverse situations and help families bounce back. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many children in school to lose ground.

To bring focus to the discussion, the following case was presented:

Case Scenario: what educators and health care agency personnel are facing:

The family (not local to our CM coverage area) has three students in school, in grades eight, six, and four. They also have two younger children who are not yet in school.

They have been part of the specific district for four years. Prior to coming to the district, they had been in a total of four other districts.

The students have been going back and forth living between their parents and their grandparents. Both families live in our school district, so school has been one of very few things that has been consistent. Social services has been involved at different times and they currently have an open case with the family and have moved custody from parents to the grandparents.

Prior to COVID-19 all three students had great attendance and grades were always average to above average.

Since going to remote learning last March, things have really gone downhill. All three students averaged no-participation 2 out of 5 days last school year.

Students went from above average to below average and the eighth-grade student actually failed two of seven classes to end the school year last year. All three students chose to participate in virtual learning for the school year this year due to the grandparents' age and poor health conditions.

The students had a rough start to the school year. They were participating very minimally and would have more days of no participation than participating. When the district saw the negative trend with the students, they began to work with them. Several phone calls took place between the school and the students' current guardians, the grandparents. Through these phone calls and conversations, it was evident that the grandparents have very little technical skills and have a hard time helping the students with schoolwork due to these issues. They do not have the technical skills to make sure students are participating and completing assignments.

Since these conversations took place in early October, 2 out of the 3 students have had a complete turnaround in the positive direction. They have started participating on most days and have brought their grades up to pre-COVID grades.

One student is still having trouble and has not improved with the other students. The student in the eighth grade ended up failing all classes at the end of the semester and did not participate on most days. School again reached out to current guardians to set-up a new plan for the student. At the same time, social services reached out to the grandparents and have put pressure on them to help the student get their grades and attendance increased.

It was decided that the student would go into school two days a week and work in the In-School-Suspension room on her assignments. It was decided to let her work in that room to allow minimal contacts at school and to be in a classroom that had very few people to allow for optimal social distancing to help take into account the grandparents' increased health risk.

The student has been to school one day. The student was immediately brought to the attention of school admin on the first day as she was caught smoking on the bus. Student admitted to smoking on the bus only after it was confirmed that the school had video evidence. The student denied that any of the tobacco products were in their possession. One hour later the student was caught in the bathroom smoking again. Showed no remorse for the situation and told the admin team they should suspend her and send her home.

Initial ideas from the case study discussion session included: finding buddy families who may want to help families with children in trouble, find help for grandparents who need help especially with technology, dig to find the human conditions which may be contributing, dig to find a failing students background in school, and not to judge.

Additionally, ideas included: church group meetings with students that are falling behind in Saturday morning Internet sessions; Big Brothers Big Sisters matching the age group that needs help, for young ages and also for grandparents raising grandchildren where, for whatever reason, parents are not available to do so; monthly Town Hall's with tech help to assist families that need to learn; and improve communications between agencies and the public in need of services where people may not know who to call.

Kentucky Youth Advocates and Bounce University have been very helpful to Russell County Schools according to Dr. Ford and Ms. Aaron.

This story was posted on 2021-06-13 17:56:46
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