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Poll reveals half of parents unconvinced that school is safe for their children’s return

Michael Savage | Sun 24 May 2020 02.41 EDT

Teachers’ union leader warns situation ‘untenable’ as health officials say track and trace system has been left too late

An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester.
 An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Parents are divided over the prospect of sending their children back to school, a new poll has revealed, as parent groups warned that mixed messages and poor communication had caused widespread anxiety about returning.

With school leaders still grappling with the practicalities of reopening primary schools for some year groups in just a week’s time in England, an Opinium poll for the Observer found that 43 per cent of primary school parents and 54 per cent of secondary school parents feel anxious about the prospects of returning.

Primary schools have been instructed to prepare to bring back reception, year 1 and year 6 classes, as well as their early years provision. However, councils of all political colours have suggested they will not follow the advice, while Welsh and Scottish schools will wait to reopen.

There are now also concerns that the return of pupils has become such a chaotic issue that it could worsen the attainment gap between affluent and poor areas and families. Some teaching unions have suggested the families of vulnerable children have been more reluctant to see them return to school. David Laws, the former education minister who now oversees the Education Policy Institute, said that a widening divide was a “significant risk”

John Jolly, chief executive of the parent group Parentkind, said there was confusion about the reopening of schools. “Parents are looking for certainty,” he said. “Some want the certainty of saying schools are safe and we’re going back. Some want the certainty of keeping children out of school until there is a vaccine, which may reflect families with underlying conditions. Then you have other parents that want a clear timeline.

“Parents are not convinced about messages around schools being safe. They are not sure about that message from the government, or that the evidence for that is being communicated. There is a lot of uncertainty about the message being communicated by schools locally.”

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned the situation on the ground was now “chaotic and increasingly untenable”. “Not only are school leaders having to think about how to reopen schools, but how they convince parents that their children should go back, and organise the school site. Then they don’t know how many staff they will have. Schools are vital for society. But they have to be safe.”Advertisement

However, professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said schools should be allowed to reopen. “Covid-19 generally barely affects children and young people and actually we’ve shown that they are about half as susceptible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “There is no doubt in my mind for children themselves, the balances are clearly in favour of going back to school.” He said the risks to family and the community could be managed with an effective track and trace system and a phased return.

While a working track and trace system is seen as necessary for rules around schools and other parts of the lockdown to be loosened, several local government sources warned that councils were now facing a race against time. There have been complaints that local public health officials have been sidelined during the pandemic, despite their expertise. They are now being drafted in as part of several pilots of the track and trace system, but insiders warn they now face huge time pressures.

Professor Donna Hall, head of the New Local Government Network, said: “At the beginning of March, public health directors were quite rapidly cut out of the national pandemic response. They are there for all aspects of public health, working on things like HIV, hepatitis, pandemic flu. Disease control is their job. They are highly skilled … but they’ve been cut out in quite a strange way.

“Other countries have deployed local resilience forums for testing and tracing. A national contact centre is never going to get to the granular detail you need for contact tracing. I’ve been out with the people who do it – they are forensic. You won’t get that through an app. It is people on the ground, observing how a disease spreads. It could be from a petrol pump or a salt shaker. That’s the kind of detail needed.

“They may be piloting things, but we’ve left it really late for that. Not giving local government a big role is foolish and dangerous.”

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Judge demands ICE better explain why it won’t release 350 parents, children

By Nomaan MerchantUpdated 31 minutes ago

MerchantUpdated 31 minutes ago

Doctors and others protest conditions that detainees being held by ICE face outside of the Broward Transitional Center, during the COVID-19 crisis, May 1, in Pompano Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)HOUSTON — A federal judge on Friday criticized the Trump administration’s handling of detained immigrant children and families, ordering the government to give the court detailed information about its efforts to quickly release them in the wake of the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee on Friday ordered the U.S. government to better explain why it hasn’t released some of the approximate 350 parents and children in three family detention centers.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has come under fire for allegedly asking parents in custody if they would allow their children to be released without them.

Parents at all three facilities — one in Pennsylvania and two in Texas — were called into short meetings and asked if there were sponsors available to care for their children, lawyers who represent the families reported that late last week. They were then asked to sign a form.

ICE has declined to release the form.

Gee wrote that she didn’t find that ICE officially sought to get those formal waivers, but that officers’ conversations with detained parents “caused confusion and unnecessary emotional upheaval and did not appear to serve the agency’s legitimate purpose of making continuous individualized inquiries regarding efforts to release minors.”

While some parents reported slightly different details, the lawyers said they broadly believed they were being asked to choose between staying in custody with their children or letting their children leave.

“They were asking mothers to separate from their 1-year-old infants to go to a sponsor that perhaps had never even met or known the child,” said Bridget Cambria, executive director of the group ALDEA, which represents families at the ICE detention center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

The Trump administration again faced allegations that it is trying to separate immigrant families as part of an overall border crackdown. The separation of immigrant families drew bipartisan condemnation in 2018 when the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy on southern border crossings.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accused advocates of making “misrepresentations” and says it remains in compliance with President Donald Trump’s June 2018 executive order intended to stop family separation. In a statement Thursday, the agency said the form was used as part of a “routine parole review consistent with the law” and Gee’s previous orders.

“The court recognized that parents, not the government, should decide whether the juvenile should be released to a sponsor,” the agency said. “To comply with this order, ICE was required to check with each of the juveniles – and their parents – in custody … to make individual parole determinations with respect to those juveniles.”

In court papers filed May 15, the government noted more than 170 times that it had refused to release children currently in detention because the “parent does not wish to separate.” It labeled many children as flight risks without providing more specifics.

Gee wrote that she didn’t find that ICE officially sought to get those formal waivers, but that officers’ conversations with detained parents “caused confusion and unnecessary emotional upheaval and did not appear to serve the agency’s legitimate purpose of making continuous individualized inquiries regarding efforts to release minors.”

On Friday, Gee called on the government and advocates to devise a new process to determine whether families could be released.

Gee oversees a court settlement known as the Flores agreement, which controls how the U.S. is supposed to treat migrant children in its custody.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. government has imposed an effective ban on the entry of families and children seeking asylum. It has expelled hundreds of children within a few days of their crossing the border with Mexico instead of turning them over to government facilities designed to care for them, as normally required by federal law.

The agency says it releases most families from its detention centers within 20 days, the general limit under the Flores settlement for holding children in a secure facility.

But many families currently in custody have been detained for months, some since last year.

Advocates contend that ICE should release all families from detention especially as the coronavirus has spread rapidly through immigration detention, with more than 1,100 people contracting COVID-19 and a positive test rate of about 50%. At ICE’s largest family detention center in Dilley, Texas, the detainees include a child with epilepsy, a 1-year-old with breathing problems, and several children with heart murmurs, according to Shalyn Fluharty, director of the legal group Proyecto Dilley.

ICE says it has released hundreds of people deemed to have heightened exposure to the virus, though it has contested lawsuits across the country demanding the releases of others.

The Trump administration is also currently appealing Gee’s order last year stopping it from terminating the Flores agreement.

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Divorcing and Becoming a Contented Single Parent: 6 Stages

From marital discord to satisfying single parenting: 274 life stories

Posted May 23, 2020 | Belle DePaulo, Ph.D.

What is it like to go from being a married parent sharing a home to a divorced single parent who is working and caring for the kids and who is the only adult in the household? To find out, University of Antwerp researchers Dries Van Gasse and Dimitri Mortelmans, with the help of trained students, interviewed 274 Belgian single parents, in person.

Each person’s experience was unique, yet a set of commonalities emerged, too. Getting divorced and becoming a single parent was a process, which typically unfolded in six stages. Van Gasse and Mortelmans described their findings in “Reorganizing the single-parent family system: Exploring the process perspective on divorce,” first published online in March 2020 in Family Relations.

All 274 single parents worked at least part time and had at least one child younger than 18 who lived with them at least half the time. All stayed single rather than repartnering. Most were single mothers, though 19% were single fathers. The single parents ranged in age from 25 to 63. Their divorce had occurred between 1 and 25 years previously.

The 6 Phases of Divorcing and Becoming a Contented Single Parent

In Belgium, divorce has become more commonplace in the past three decades, following important legal reforms. Because of successful economic redistribution, single parents there have low rates of poverty. Nonetheless, dual-earner couples are the norm, and “families in which one parent has responsibility for both the income and the family duties still have difficulties in attaining the same standard of living as other families.”

Phase 1: Initial Contentment and Decline

The process of divorcing begins when happily-ever-after doesn’t seem so happy anymore. Contentment with the marriage begins to erode, and tensions rise.

Those who are judgmental about divorce like to claim that people don’t take divorce seriously enough. Van Gasse and Mortlemans found that none of the 274 people in their research fit that description. Most struggled with the process and took some time to decide to dissolve the marriage.

A 40-year-old woman who had been single for two years said:

“When I thought about being in this situation for another 20 years, I became totally depressed…On the other hand, …you don’t decide such things in a hurry. For me, it took six years…”

The transition to single parenting begins when a definitive decision is made to end the marriage.

Phase 2: Drive Toward Transition

Even if the marital relationship had been a troubled one for a very long time, the initial transition to single parenting can be jolting. The intensity of emotions during the early phase after the split depends on many factors, including the reasons for the divorce, the way the ex-partners relate to each other, the reactions of the children, and the support they all have in their new lives.

Also important is the way the decision to divorce was made. On one end of the spectrum are unilateral decisions that are kept secret until the moment they are sprung, as, for example, when one partner slips away with their worldly goods, leaving the other to return from work to a half-empty house and a spouse who has vanished. On the other end are the decisions that are discussed openly and at length, often in therapy. Most processes fall somewhere in between. Unsurprisingly, the more open and mutual processes tend to be followed by less painful transitions.

Phase 3: The Hazy Period

In the next phase, the authors note, “people live in a haze, liberated from old routines but also short on money and time and uncertain how they will survive as single parents… they must find new ways to organize parental roles, simple household routines, finances, and their work life.” Many look to parents or other relatives or friends for help.

The hazy period can feel overwhelming. Many of the interviewees had difficulty remembering that stage.

Phase 4: Temporary Reorganization of Family Life

After a while, emotions are not so intense anymore, and single parents focus more on the practical issues involved in reorganizing their lives. Some look to create or strengthen ties with a broader network of support, and others strive for more independence and self-sufficiency.

A 34-year old who wanted more closeness said:

“…returning to my birthplace was like anchoring my ship in a safe haven. I know family and friends here will always be there for me, and they are with me every day of the week.”

For a 46-year-old man who had been single for 11 years, the process of divorce was a journey toward independence:

“When the kids were young, my mother was here every day, picking them up from school, doing homework… I started to feel uncomfortable about it, and we had a talk. It turned out we had the same feeling. It was time for me to regain independence…”

Phase 5: Sustainable Reorganization of Work and Care

The early attempts at reorganizing life often turn out to be temporary. In the next stage, single parents figure out more sustainable ways of dealing with the many challenges of earning a living, caring for their children, and maintaining a household. They get more adept at managing their time and their finances. Some find new work or new ways of getting help with chores. They “set up a new system of daily routines that makes it possible to regain further control over their lives.”

Phase 6: New Period of Contentment: Reorganization and Acceptance

Although some single parents continue to struggle with the changes in their lives, they tend to see their current difficulties as less problematic than their former relationship with their spouse. Other single parents “once again have a sense of what they are capable of achieving…They are content with how their lives have turned out.”

The 46-year-old single father whose mother helped him initially said:

“I can make ends meet and don’t overextend myself… the children have landed on their feet… they are nice guys who can stand up for themselves and are doing great.”

A 52-year-old who had been single for eight years said:

“I became unbelievably rich with life, that is, human richness, openness, the warmth, the social life with children, family, friends. That is something that is much more valuable for me now. I give less value to how things look: Your image and material values are less important.”

A 46-year-old woman who had been single for 11 years told the interviewer:

“My image of single-parent families has changed after my divorce… A world opened up for me… I stopped searching for a new partner… I was happy being a single parent.”

The Big Picture: Challenges, But Also Resilience

If you were to think about divorce as something that happens at one point in time, and then focus on that one discrete event, it might seem like an overwhelmingly negative experience. And for many of the adults who go through it, that early phase really can be a true life crisis.

In people’s real lives, though, getting divorced and becoming a single parent is a process with multiple stages. The initial phases can be deeply unsettling for many people, but over time, many single parents create satisfying new lives for themselves and their children. Their story is not one of devastation, but of resilience.

10 Years Old, Tearful and Confused After a Sudden Deportation

Since the coronavirus broke out, the Trump administration has deported hundreds of migrant children alone — in some cases, without notifying their families.

Sandra Rodríguez with her son Gerson, 10.
Sandra Rodríguez with her son Gerson, 10.Credit…via Sandra Rodriguez

By Caitlin Dickerson | May 20, 2020Updated 3:13 p.m. ET

The last time Sandra Rodríguez saw her son Gerson, she bent down to look him in the eye. “Be good,” she said, instructing him to behave when he encountered Border Patrol agents on the other side of the river in the United States, and when he was reunited with his uncle in Houston.

The 10-year-old nodded, giving his mother one last squinty smile. Tears caught in his dimples, she recalled, as he climbed into a raft and pushed out across the Rio Grande toward Texas from Mexico, guided by a stranger who was also trying to reach the United States.

Ms. Rodríguez expected that Gerson would be held by the Border Patrol for a few days and then transferred to a government shelter for migrant children, from which her brother in Houston would eventually be able to claim him. But Gerson seemed to disappear on the other side of the river. For six frantic days, she heard nothing about her son — no word that he had been taken into custody, no contact with the uncle in Houston.

Finally, she received a panicked phone call from a cousin in Honduras who said that Gerson was with her. The little boy was crying and disoriented, his relatives said; he seemed confused about how he had ended up back in the dangerous place he had fled.

Hundreds of migrant children and teenagers have been swiftly deported by American authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic without the opportunity to speak to a social worker or plea for asylum from the violence in their home countries — a reversal of years of established practice for dealing with young foreigners who arrive in the United States.

The deportations represent an extraordinary shift in policy that has been unfolding in recent weeks on the southwestern border, under which safeguards that have for decades been granted to migrant children by both Democratic and Republican administrations appear to have been abandoned.

Historically, young migrants who showed up at the border without adult guardians were provided with shelter, education, medical care and a lengthy administrative process that allowed them to make a case for staying in the United States. Those who were eventually deported were sent home only after arrangements had been made to assure they had a safe place to return to.

That process appears to have been abruptly thrown out under President Trump’s latest border decrees. Some young migrants have been deported within hours of setting foot on American soil. Others have been rousted from their beds in the middle of the night in U.S. government shelters and put on planes out of the country without any notification to their families.

The Trump administration is justifying the new practices under a 1944 law that grants the president broad power to block foreigners from entering the country in order to prevent the “serious threat” of a dangerous disease. But immigration officials in recent weeks have also been abruptly expelling migrant children and teenagers who were already in the United States when the pandemic-related order came down in late March.

Since the decree was put in effect, hundreds of young migrants have been deported, including some who had asylum appeals pending in the court system.

Some of the young people have been flown back to Central America, while others have been pushed back into Mexico, where thousands of migrants are living in filthy tent camps and overrun shelters.

In March and April, the most recent period for which data was available, 915 young migrants were expelled shortly after reaching the American border, and 60 were shipped home from the interior of the country.

During the same period, at least 166 young migrants were allowed into the United States and afforded the safeguards that were once customary. But in another unusual departure, Customs and Border Protection has refused to disclose how the government was determining which legal standards to apply to which children.

“We just can’t put it out there,” said Matthew Dyman, a public affairs specialist with the agency, citing concerns that human smugglers would exploit the information to traffic more people into the country if they knew how the laws were being applied.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration extended the stepped-up border security that allows for young migrants to be expelled at the border, saying the policy would remain in place indefinitely and be reviewed every 30 days.

Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the policy had been “one of the most critical tools the department has used to prevent the further spread of the virus and to protect the American people, D.H.S. front-line officers and those in their care and custody from Covid-19.”

An agency spokesman said its policies for deporting children from within the interior of the country had not changed.

Amid Mr. Trump’s efforts to block migrants from seeking refuge in the United States, the administration has been scrutinized especially for its treatment of the most vulnerable among them — children.

Beginning in 2017, the government traumatized thousands of children by separating them from their parents at the border. Administration officials have also left young migrants to languish in filthy Border Patrol holding cells with no adult supervision and argued in court that the children were not legally entitled to toothbrushes or soap.

Democratic members of Congress argue that the swift deportations taking place now violate the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a 20-year-old federal law that lays out standards for the treatment of foreign children who arrive at the American border without an adult guardian.

In a letter last month to Mr. Wolf, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said the moves had “no known precedent or clear legal rationale.”

Immigrant advocates say their pleas for help ensuring that the children have somewhere safe to go when they land have been ignored. Since the coronavirus was first discovered in the United States in January, 239 unaccompanied minors have been returned to Guatemala, and 183 have been returned to Honduras, according to government figures.

“The fact that nobody knows who these kids are and there are hundreds of them is really terrifying,” said Jennifer Nagda, policy director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “There’s no telling if they’ve been returned to smugglers or into harm’s way.”

Some minors have been deported overnight despite an Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy that says they should be repatriated only during daylight hours.

Before daybreak one morning late last month, Pedro Buezo Romero, 16, was taken from his bed in a shelter in New York and told to pack a suitcase so he could be taken to a court appearance in Florida.

Instead, the teenager ended up on four flights over two days. He was able to sleep for a few hours in a hotel room in Miami shared by three adult employees of a private security company hired to transport him and two other migrant teenagers.

Only before boarding his final flight to Honduras from Texas did the adults reveal to Pedro that he was being deported. When he arrived in Honduras, he had to borrow the cellphone of an immigration official to ask his cousin for a place to stay.

Pedro’s mother has not been seen since the shelter in Mexico where they had been staying together was ransacked by gang members. He and his mother were separated during the ordeal, after which Pedro decided to cross the border alone.

While Pedro was in transit, his lawyers had worked frantically to try to locate him but did not receive any response from the federal government. “There were two or three days we had no idea where he was,” said Katty Vera de Fisher, a supervising migration counselor for Catholic Charities of New York.

Pedro Buezo Romero with his mother. Pedro said he was even more vulnerable now than he was when he decided to leave for the United States.
Pedro Buezo Romero with his mother. Pedro said he was even more vulnerable now than he was when he decided to leave for the United States.Credit…via Pedro Buezo Romero

Some of the children who have been expelled from the United States were previously ordered deported. But historically, even children with prior deportation orders have been given new opportunities to request asylum if they entered the United States again. Now, that appears to have changed.

Lawyers representing children threatened with deportation say they are having to engage in 11th-hour legal maneuvers to try to prevent deportations from happening.

Last week, Hannah Flamm, an immigration lawyer in New York, had only hours to try to stop the repatriation of a 14-year-old client after learning the girl had been booked by ICE on a 3 a.m. flight to Honduras.

The girl’s family had not been notified of her imminent arrival. Ms. Flamm managed to secure an emergency stay of the deportation at 11:47 p.m., at which point the girl was allowed to go back to sleep in the shelter where she was staying.

Ricardo Rodríguez Galo, the uncle of the 10-year-old boy who was deported this month, said he was shocked to learn that Gerson had been sent back to Honduras alone.

Mr. Rodríguez said he worried about the boy’s safety in Honduras, where his sister’s former partner had beaten the boy and his mother and withheld food from them. Mr. Rodríguez also wondered about the judgment of American authorities who chose to put a child on a plane without notifying any of his family members, including those who had been waiting in the United States to take the boy into their home.

“I’m not going to tell you that we were going to shower him with riches,” Mr. Rodríguez said. “We’re poor, but we were going to fight to support him. We were going to welcome him like he deserved.”

Kirk Semple contributed reporting.

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ICE: Migrant parents chose detention over children’s release

By Tanvi MisraPosted May 18, 2020 at 4:56pm

When asked whether they wanted to be separated from their children, parents chose to remain in detention — with their kids

A woman holds a sign during a Families Belong Together protest outside the White House in June.  (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
A woman holds a sign during a Families Belong Together protest outside the White House in June. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement suggests around 180 detained migrant children remain in family detention centers beyond the legally permitted period because their parents did not want to be separated from them, according to a new document filed over the weekend. 

The filing was required by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California as part of the lawsuit, Flores v. Barr, a case challenging last year’s move by the Trump administration to end a 1997 court settlement establishing standards of treatment for migrant children. The administration’s move was blocked, but advocates went back to court earlier this year, arguing that the government had kept minors in custody far longer than the legally prescribed 20 days at restrictive, unlicensed and unsanitary facilities.

On April 24, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ordered ICE  to “promptly and safely” release from detention facilities all children who do not pose a danger to the public and are not flight risks. One of the requirements of that order was that ICE make “individualized” determinations and submit a report on its efforts by May 16.

The report the administration filed Saturday includes a chart logging responses of parents at three family detention facilities run by ICE — two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. ICE listed “parent does not wish to separate” as a reason for denying children parole in determinations made last week, which the agency said was “consistent with the existing parole review process.”

ICE wrote it had inquired about possible sponsors outside the detention center, among other things. The agency said officers “did not ask any parents to waive his or her Flores rights” during the process.

Lawyers representing clients at the three family detention facilities originally raised concerns about ICE actions in a press call last Thursday. They said ICE agents had approached detained parents, presenting them with a “binary choice.” They could either authorize their child’s release, resulting in their separation from them, or the families could stay in prolonged detention together. 

The immigration attorneys, who belong to pro bono legal service providers RAICES, ALDEA and Proyecto Dilley, said ICE had not notified them in advance that it would present parents with such a choice. The lawyers said the parents recounted that ICE agents did not provide other options and did not clarify whether or not parents would be deported without their children, some of whom were as young as 1 year old. 

“This choice they’re being given comes at a time when the international crisis that has resulted from COVID-19 should be bringing us together as human beings,” Allison Herre, managing attorney at Proyecto Dilley, said during the media call.  “The process by which ICE is … minimizing the humanity and detracting from the dignity of these families is really unfortunate to see.” 

Herre and other lawyers said they believe ICE timed its recent actions so the agency could tell the U.S. court it complied with court orders. They sent a letter last week to the independent monitor for the Flores settlement agreement, noting that 163 children held at the three family detention facilities were detained for an average of 137 days; 58 were detained for more than 200 days.

ICE did not respond to CQ Roll Call requests for comment on the matter. 

Last week’s accounts by the lawyers prompted the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to announce it was investigating the issue. Staff members of the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, also are looking into the matter.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, released a statement decrying ICE’s reported actions.

“While the number of COVID-19 cases in ICE facilities continues to rise daily, the Administration should use its authority to release families – together – as much as possible,” Thompson said in a statement Friday. “Parents should not be placed in the impossible position of choosing between the safety of their children or being separated. This is a false choice, and I urge the Administration to end this practice immediately.”

Experts offer advice to help parents ‘manage the meltdowns’ during time at home with kids

by Ashley Gooden | Monday, May 18th 2020

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBMA) — Since school has been out, many children have started to grow anxious and irritable with having to stay at home so much. ABC 33/40 is getting help from experts to help manage the meltdowns.

Kiara Harris is the parent of a 5 year-old, and as you can imagine, her son, Noah, is getting a little antsy staying at home.

“We’re accustomed to going to jump parks or to indoor playgrounds and he doesn’t quite understand why he can’t go outside and play on the playground and he’s made a few comments like he misses school or he wants to have fun this weekend. So, it’s been really odd for both of us because he can’t get out the energy he’s accustomed to getting out,” says Harris.

Things are a little odd for most parents right now… Many kids are more irritable, and it’s not their fault.

“I feel bad that there isn’t that much we can do,” says Harris.

Doctors say there are a couple of things parents can do while at home like noticing if the irritability is coming from them or the child, and also realizing changes in behavior that are out of the ordinary.

“For most children what you’re going to be noticing is a normal reaction to the circumstances, basic support, finding ways to help them cope, creating activities, help them find ways to creatively stay in touch with their friends,” says Dr. Dan Marullo, a psychologist at Children’s of Alabama.

Marullo says tummy aches, headaches, and other aches and pains can be a sign of emotional distress.

Dr. Amin Gilani, a psychiatrist associated with Brookwood Baptist Medical Center says now more than ever your children are watching you to see how they should behave.

“There will be long term consequences of the isolation, social distancing, the whole pandemic thing, and parents are consuming all the news from all of the sources and the amount of stress and amount of reaction parents are going through will determine how badly their kids will be effected,” says Gilani.

Gilani also recommends paying attention to how much your child is online, he says there should be a maximum of 4 hours spent in front of a screen.

He mentions there could be much difficulty for children, when it comes to heading back to school.

“So it’s going to be an extreme level of emotion. Some kids will be too happy and some will be too scared and that is not a good sign. I would be very careful and talk to your kids, be like hey I know we had a long break, we didn’t go outside, but in the august, you may have to go back to school,” says Gilani.

If you’d like an additional resource to help walk you through how to cope with difficulties you may be facing at home with your children, you can call Children’s of Alabama’s free confidential phone response center that links adult callers to mental health resources for children and teens.

That number is 205-638-PIRC (7472).

Parent depression linked to reduced empathy, putting kids at risk for adverse outcomes

by Joan Brasher May. 18, 2020, 12:16 PM

Parents with greater depression symptoms report experiencing less empathy—even toward their own children, according to a new Vanderbilt report published in PLOS ONE. This phenomenon could lead to significant long-term negative impacts for these children, the researchers say.

“Feeling understood and accepted is important for everyone, but especially in the context of the parent–child relationship,” said senior author Kathryn L. Humphreys, assistant professor of psychology at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development. “Research studies find that when children don’t receive empathic responses from caregivers, they tend to have a wide variety of negative outcomes, including elevated physiological responses to stress, increased risk for psychiatric disorders, especially depression, and decreased empathy toward others.”

The findings may be particularly pertinent during the current COVID-19 outbreak, a time when depression and anxiety are on the rise as parents struggle to balance health and financial concerns with isolation, working from home and caring for (and educating) their young children.

“Our findings may help to explain why parents with depression are more likely to engage in negative parenting behaviors, such as withdrawal or hostility, and reduced positive parenting behaviors, like sensitivity, engagement and warmth,” said lead author Virginia Salo, a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt. “Depression doesn’t just affect the person who is experiencing it.”

Kathryn L. Humphreys (Vanderbilt)
Kathryn L. Humphreys (Vanderbilt

“A parent’s difficulty identifying and connecting with a child’s emotions is particularly concerning during these turbulent times.”
–Kathryn L. Humphreys

Humphreys says that parents experiencing depression are more likely to struggle with fatigue and irritability, making even routine family-centric activities like reading together, preparing meals and playing games, more difficult. These activities are important because they can build emotional connection, boost learning and enhance language skills.

“A parent’s difficulty identifying and connecting with a child’s emotions is particularly concerning during these turbulent times when children’s worlds are being disrupted and parents are the primary source for providing a sense of safety,” Humphreys said.

Across the world population, more than 300 million people are estimated to experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime. Among adults in the United States alone the lifetime prevalence of major depressive disorder is approximately 21 percent.

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A Working Parent’s Guide To Paid Family Leave In The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Kelly Anne Smith | Forbes Staff | Advisor Contributor Group Personal Finance

Middle Aged Women working from home in office whilst also looking after her young daugther.
If you’re struggling to balance child care and working from home, you might be eligible for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. GETTY

The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping what’s been known as normal life.

As families start to grapple with a new reality, that may mean having to spend more time at home with children as summer camps, daycares and schools could remain closed for the foreseeable future. Without child care, working parents are left to figure out how they might balance work and taking care of their children at the same time.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was created to expand paid leave options for employees effective from April 2 through December 31, 2020. The temporary rule provides a range of assistance measures, but most importantly, it provides a safety net to working parents who are unable to find child care due to COVID-19-related reasons. The FFCRA offers employees up to 12 weeks of partial paid leave to tend to their children. Businesses whose employees take this leave pay for it through a refundable tax credit administered by the Department of Treasury. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Details on Expanded Paid Family Leave in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Paid family leave could be crucial for parents who are struggling to figure out how to balance work and childcare, especially if their summer camp or childcare plans fall through due to COVID-19 restrictions. Today In: Personal Finance

If you find yourself in that situation, you might be entitled to paid family leave. The FFCRA, signed into law on March 18, significantly expands the amount of family and medical leave certain employers are required to offer during the COVID-19 crisis. The provisions are in effect through the end of this year and apply to private businesses with fewer than 500 employees (however, businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from offering the paid leave under certain conditions) and certain public employers.

Parents can receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave by combining relief available in two separate pieces of legislation, which are both part of the FFCRA: the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EMFLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA). These two regulations work together to provide paid leave for individuals dealing with school or child care unavailability due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Here’s how it works:

  • Workers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave under EPSLA at two-thirds of their regular rate of pay when they are unable to work because they are caring for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19.
  • Workers can receive 12 weeks of family and medical leave under EMFLEA because their child’s school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19. The first two weeks of this period will be unpaidbut you can use the two weeks of paid sick leave listed above, or elect to use accrued vacation or sick days from your employer, to cover that two-week gap. The remaining 10 weeks of leave under the EMFLEA will be paid at at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.

In total, combining the various provisions made available in the FFCRA allow working parents (who qualify) to take a total of three months of leave at partial pay.

Important Rules About the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act

Expanded paid leave as offered under the EFMLEA portion of the FFCRA is helpful to many. But there are caveats that workers should be aware of before they jump on the opportunity to use it. Keep these rules in mind:

  • Your employer has to have work for you in order for you to be eligible for the leave. You are only eligible for the leave if caring for your son or daughter actually takes you away from completing your work. If your employer is closed, or you’re furloughed, you cannot take 12 weeks of expanded paid sick and family leave under the FFCRA. Instead, you would be eligible for unemployment.
  • You have to be employed for at least 30 calendar days to qualify for the additional 10 weeks of paid family leave. If you were let go during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, and are now back on payroll, you’ll have to be employed for at least a month before you’re eligible for the expanded paid family leave. However, all employees are eligible for the initial two weeks of expanded paid sick leave, regardless of how long they’ve been employed.  
  • If you can only work a few days a week because you need to care for your children certain days, you can take intermittent leave. For example, if you’re working from home and need to be offline Wednesday and Friday each week to care for your children, that time away from work is eligible for paid family leave. This only applies if the employer and employee agree to the arrangement, so be sure to speak with your employer before settling on this option.
  • Your two-thirds rate of pay will be capped at $200 per day and $12,000 total over the 12-week period. If you’re a high earner, this could significantly cut down how much you can earn over the 12-week period. Be sure to first exhaust any accrued paid sick leave or vacation days, if possible, so you can still receive full pay. 
  • If you work part-time, your pay will be calculated based on the average number of hours you work over a two-week period. But if your work schedule is irregular, and you’ve been employed for at least six months, your pay will be equal to 14 times the average number of hours you were scheduled to work each calendar day over the six-month period.
  • If your employer has less than 50 employees, it can opt out of giving you paid family leave. If giving paid leave to employees due to school or child care closings would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern,” according to the law, then these smaller businesses are not required to give employees paid leave through the FFCRA.
  • If you’ve already taken time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the current 12-month year, the time you can take off under the EFMLEA will be reduced by that amount. For example, if you took five weeks of FMLA in January, and now need to take EFMLEA, you can only take seven of the total 12 weeks of leave.
  • You need to notify your employer about taking leave. When taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for your child, you’ll have to provide documentation to your employer stating that’s the reason. Your documentation should include the name of the child you’re caring for, the school or childcare provider that has closed or is unavailable because of COVID-19, and a statement explaining that no one else is available to care for your child during your requested period of leave.  

What If You’re Not Eligible for Paid Leave Provided by the FFCRA?

If you have been furloughed and aren’t eligible for paid family leave provided by the FFCRA, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has expanded unemployment benefits to cover individuals in this situation.

Pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) extends unemployment benefits to individuals who don’t typically qualify for state unemployment. PUA covers workers who are unemployed, partially unemployed or are unable to work for COVID-19-related reasons starting on or after January 27 (payments are retroactive to that date, meaning if you met the criteria on that date but didn’t file until later, you’ll still be paid for the days in between). According to U.S. Department of Labor guidelines, individuals who are still employed but cannot work because of a school closure or summer care closure due to COVID-19 may also qualify for PUA. 

Individuals who qualify for PUA can receive up to 39 weeks of benefits; the amount you receive will depend on how your state calculates unemployment benefits, but will likely be based on your past income. Individuals who receive PUA are also eligible for an additional $600 per week in benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUB) program, which is part of the CARES Act. As of now, the additional $600 per week is available through the end of July.

Unemployment insurance is a joint effort between the federal government and states. Individuals interested in receiving PUA will need to apply through their state’s unemployment insurance website. 

Bottom Line

While FFCRA gives workers expanded paid leave options, there are important stipulations to keep in mind when considering them. Contact your employer directly for more information about expanded paid family leave under the FFCRA and to discuss if it’s the right option for you.

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Parent group in Vail gives seniors unconventional graduation ceremony

Danyelle Khmara | May 15, 2020 Updated 1 hr ago

Tucson Dragway
Over three nights, seniors from Vail’s six high schools will cruise down a 1-mile track at Tucson Dragway for graduation.

Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

The plan was born out of mutual commiseration.

A group of parents in the Vail School District got together over Zoom — a “parents-of-seniors happy hour,” says Kary Aros-Hinrichs. Having a few drinks and chatting about their children’s loss of a traditional graduation ceremony gave way to an idea.

The class of 2020 may not get to walk across a stage because of the coronavirus, but Vail high school seniors will be driven down a race track, their graduation song blaring, families and friends cheering them on — from a safe distance, that is, at the Tucson Dragway.

“You can’t fight what is,” Aros-Hinrichs says. “So, let’s not fight it. Let’s think of a way to be positive. What can we do?”

Happy hour turned into a brainstorming session. Closing down a street sounded like a logistical nightmare. The fairgrounds didn’t seem quite right. Then somebody mentioned the drag strip. Aros-Hinrichs sent an email that night. The next morning in her inbox she had a reply from Tucson Dragway Manager Matt DeYoung.

“Call me,” he said. “We can do this.”

Over three nights — May 17, 18 and 19 — participating seniors from Vail’s six high schools will cruise down a 1-mile track that supports 880 cars spaced 6 feet apart along its sides.

A DJ will play music while they queue up their cars, ready in their caps and gowns. As each student starts down the track, their names will be announced over the sound system. And stationed around the track, vehicles occupied by friends and family will be parked 10 feet apart.

Aros-Hinrichs says it’s like walking the stage, only driving.

Teens and parents will decorate vehicles. There’s been talk of limousines and open-air trailers. There’s even rumors that a truck-bed pool might grace the track.

And after a graduate’s name is called, each one will pass a staging area for a photo-op that may come to represent the class of 2020 — commencement photos from a car.

Aros-Hinrichs’ son Josh Aros says even though his class has missed out, in some ways, they’re getting more recognition. There’s a lot of love focused on the class of 2020, he said.

School districts and people throughout Tucson have made efforts over the last few weeks to honor the class of 2020, including adopt-a-senior efforts, celebratory lawn signs, grab-and-go events at schools and virtual graduations.

“It’s really amazing that even during this whole pandemic, they said, ‘How can we make our kids and our community get the most out of this?’” Aros says. “And ‘how can we make them still feel special?’ when like our last semester of our senior year — probably the best time of our schooling — was taken away from us?”

The Cienega High senior had to endure many cancellations as the pandemic ramped up — his 18th birthday party, a soccer tournament in Las Vegas, senior ditch day. But he says this experience has also made him and his family better appreciate the small things.

“We just adapt and overcome, you know?” he says. “It’s just really cool to see we have this whole community behind us.”

Cienega High senior Danae Cole will wear her cap and gown and decorating her mom’s truck for her graduation cruise.

While she’s a bit sad about the celebrations she’s missing out on, in other ways, Cole feels like what she’s getting is better because of all the community efforts to celebrate her class.

“We’re even getting more than our traditional graduation, which, in a way I feel like it’s kind of better, that we get more,” she said.

The district is supporting the event, although not sponsoring or endorsing it. So Aros-Hinrichs and her happy hour committee, a “small” group of about 20 enthusiastic parents, did all the legwork to get the event off the ground.

There were spreadsheets and regular Zoom meetings. They sent out surveys to gauge interest and participation.

Organizers don’t know how many people will show up, but they got hundreds of affirmative responses from the district’s 914 graduating seniors and their parents.

Nothing will ever replace what these kids lost, says Deana Irvin, one of the parents and organizers. She says all they can do is try and create something special.

When seniors get to the end of the track, decorated with billowing balloons, there’s only one way to go — not back in to congratulate each other and socialize, but onto the road that leads them back to whatever bubble they’ve been living in for the past two months.

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Ikea’s instructions for building the best pillow forts are what every parent needs right now

By Leah Asmelash, CNN

Updated 7:48 PM ET, Fri May 15, 2020

If you're bored at home, IKEA Russia has got some ideas.

If you’re bored at home, IKEA Russia has got some ideas.

(CNN)After what feels like a lifetime in quarantine and isolation, parents may be running out of ideas to keep kids entertained.So for everyone looking for ways to have fun within four walls, Ikea Russia has some ideas.The company released six instruction manuals on how to build blanket forts using everyday household items — chairs, stools, books and, of course, blankets.And there’s instructions for almost every type of structure.Like, a castle, because your kids are royalty.Or a house.

And, with outdoor activities being slightly limited, there’s even a way to go camping.

Also a cave, wigwam and fortress — for whatever storylines you or your kids can dream up.

Quarantining can be stressful with kids but, hey, at least it will never be boring.And if you really want an Ikea experience, the company released a recipe for its Swedish meatballs last month.

We would love to hear from you, have a story, tip or recipe you would like to share with our readers? Feel free to email it to throughlovewelearn@gmail.com.

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