4/27 CEO UPDATE: COVID-19 & OUR FAMILIES
As many of you know, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry is NOT PERMITTING its Bigs and Littles to meet in person right now, even though some physical distancing prohibitions are lifting. Instead, we are encouraging our matches to “meet” virtually via Facetime, GoogleChat, text, phone, Zoom and more. We are happy to report, the vast majority of our matches are connecting successfully and are nurturing their relationships remotely.
There are many reasons for this temporary policy, but lately top of mind has been the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on members of African American communities. According to the Center for Disease Control, “The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups is still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups” with the mortality rate for African-American individuals being double that of white persons.
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Given that our families predominantly identify as African-American (83%), that a large number of our Little Brothers’ and Little Sisters’ households are multi-generational, that almost 10% of our “Littles” are being raised by their grandparents, and that more than 90% of our families have children on free- or reduced-lunch, we feel a MORAL obligation to do all we can to keep our families safe. While children seem to be less affected physically by COVID-19, the parents/grandparents/guardians of our “Littles” are at risk. Many of their parents are considered essential workers who have greater risk of exposure. Additionally, many of our “Littles” are now splitting their time or living temporarily with their grandparents, because their parents must work and there is no school or childcare right now. If our Littles' parents/guardians are compromised by this virus, our Littles will experience even greater disadvantage than they do during the best of times. We do not want to add to the risk.
Further, we believe it is important to take our cues from trusted leaders within the communities we serve. African-American church leaders, the NAACP, the Urban League, and more are opposed to lifting quarantines too quickly in order to protect their members. We feel we need to respond with open ears and with as much care. Please know that even when BBBSL determines it is safe enough to allow matches to meet again in person, PARENTS will make the final determination because they, and they alone, get to decide what is best for their families. Parents who want to continue a virtual relationship longer until they feel it is safe enough will have the option.
Certainly, connection is more important now than ever. Kids need connection and a sense of belonging to feel resilient. Connection is protective against mental health complications, addiction and more. In short, the critical power of mentoring has not changed, only our current method. In the coming days and weeks, we will seriously explore enhancements that will make virtual mentoring connections more robust. Stay tuned for more to come on that front. Further, once the data strongly supports meeting face-to-face again is safe, and once FAMILIES FEEL IT IS SAFE, we WILL permit our matches to meet in person again. While we wait, we will continue to provide professional support to our matches on an ongoing basis and we will continue to refer our families to critical resources they may need.
To close I wish to express gratitude. We remain grateful to the families that continue to support relationships between their children and their Bigs. We thank our Bigs for standing by, helping with classwork, and lifting the spirits of their Littles through consistent outreach. We say THANK YOU to our donors who continue affirm the essential nature our Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry with their generous giving. And we say THANK YOU to our community partners who are busier than ever addressing critical needs like food, shelter, and utility assistance for the families we serve.
With sincere thanks,
President & CEO
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lowcountry