Fort Jackson Child & Youth Services closed its doors to patrons March 20, after which staff set about working to keep Families informed an involved by posting book readings, daily activities, teaching strategies resources, sports/fitness videos and resources, and up-to-date CYS information to support parents who are staying at home. (Courtesy Photo)
By Robert Timmons Fort Jackson Public Affairs
When Child & Youth Services closed its doors to patrons March 20, they immediately started thinking of ways to keep their programs going, said the director of Fort Jackson’s program.
“When we learned of the full shut down of CYS, we started thinking about the patrons, CYS employees, what happens when we reopen,” Sunny Bolton said. “We began to do rapid planning to cover all of these topics.”
CYS is working hard to keep Families informed an involved, she said, by posting book readings, daily activities, teaching strategies resources, sports/fitness videos and resources, and up-to-date CYS information to support parents who are staying at home.
The closure wasn’t easy on patrons or the tight knit group of staff members who became separated due to the pandemic.
CYS’s first priority was to communicate with its employees. Bolton said social media became a quick way to ensure the staff was connected at all levels – class/program planning, professional development, physical fitness and training. They even kicked in a little humor.
“We recorded trainings, in conjunction with our proponents,” Bolton said. Trainers created three-month training calendars so each member would know when they have to log in for the class and complete necessary tests so they can remain certified.
Child abuse, fire and food specialists recorded their trainings prior to the shutdown to be shown on Facebook live feeds, she added.
CYS Youth Sports hasn’t been idle either. They conduct weekly circuit training, functional fitness and skills clinics for the CYS families.
“It's extremely important for youth sports to remain active,” said Darius Lane, Youth Sports and Fitness director. “We are able to provide a service to thousands of kids every year and truly make an impact. It's never solely about the sport the child is participating in. My staff and I always try to teach valuable life lessons to the athletes as well.”
While Lane said it is “heartbreaking” not to have personal interactions with the kids, “the virtual interaction will suffice for the time being, but we are anxious to get the kids back on the playing fields.”
“We want our CYS community to be able to have contact with the sports team and have a physical outlet for kids since they are staying home,” Bolton added.
CYS is not celebrating the Month of the Military Child until September, but are celebrating “Fabulous Family Month. “We did not want the month of April to go by without celebrating - so we shift to what matters most – Families,” Bolton said.
Even with the precautions being taken, CYS is looking to the future.
“Our intent is to reopen CYS and be ready for summer camp,” Bolton said, “and have a cohesive CYS team that kept up-to-date on training, planning and programming requirements, but most importantly, be together to make it to the other side of this national health crisis coming back stronger than we were before.”