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Around this time of year, Carole Swiecicki is usually midway through the events and speaking engagements scheduled around Child Abuse Prevention Month.
This year, however, COVID-19 forced the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center to shift its plans.
“We’re doing some things, but we’ve also postponed some things,” said Swiecicki, executive director of the center.
Swiecicki said with the added stress that families are feeling because of the coronavirus, the center’s work is particularly relevant, which meant finding other ways to draw awareness to Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Many of the speaking engagements will be shifted to October, she said, but the center’s pinwheel campaign, in which businesses put up pinwheels to bring attention to child abuse prevention, is taking place on social media instead of in the community.
“I’ve already seen some reports that there’s an increase in domestic violence and sexual assault calls to hotlines, so it’s particularly relevant … because of everyone being in the sort of riskier situations,” Swiecicki said. “So we’re still hoping to draw awareness to social media to this problem.”
In addition to Child Abuse Prevention Work, the advocacy center has been continuing its normal work of video-recorded interviews and in-person services, though they’re trying to do as much work as possible remotely.
When in-person visits are required, Swiecicki said staff has been taking extra precautions to prevent spread of the coronavirus, including asking screening questions provided by the Medical University of South Carolina, obtaining face masks and conducting interviews from a safe distance of six feet away if possible.
Swiecicki said it’s been somewhat difficult for the center’s staff to adjust to working remotely because of how their office functions, but they’ve managed to use technology to replicate their workflow to some degree.
“We’re a really cohesive and collaborative group, so we’re used to popping in each other’s offices and things like that,” Swiecicki said. “We have been using Microsoft Teams, which has video chat capability, and so we do a lot … so we still can at least see each other.”
Swiecicki said the center’s staff have also been sending videos to each other to keep team morale up.
“You know, like mindfulness clips that could be encouraging for staff but also encouraging to send a client,” she said.
Overall, Swiecicki said she’s confident that the Lowcountry can get through the pandemic.
“Our community is incredibly strong, so we will get through this together,” she said. “It’s a tough time, but I’m encouraged because it’s a strong community.”e