COVID-19 UpdatesHCN News & Notes

Concerns for Child Welfare and Mental Health Mount for Square One Families

SPRINGFIELD — As stress surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to mount, Square One is responding to growing concerns about the health and well-being of the region’s most vulnerable families.

“In addition to helping our families meet their basic needs, we know that, during times of isolation, there is an increase in domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and mental-health crises,” said Joan Kagan, president and CEO of Square One. “It is absolutely critical that our staff maintain a steady presence in the lives of our children and families to help protect them from any harm.”

Under normal circumstances, Square One educators, therapists, social workers, and home visitors are a constant physical presence in the lives of the community’s children and families. They are trained to notice signs of distress and respond appropriately. But the COVID-19 pandemic and call for social distancing has changed the way the Square One team is meeting their responsibilities.

Over the past three weeks, the Square One family-services team has conducted 150 virtual home visits, 300 check-in calls, and made deliveries of emergency supplies of diapers, baby wipes, and formula to more than 80 families throughout the region.

Square One’s preschool and school-age educators are personally communicating with all 500 children and families in its learning programs. They are performing virtual story readings, fitness demonstrations, and other lessons via social media.

Likewise, the Square One Cornerstone Therapy Center team continues to perform virtual therapy sessions for the agency’s most vulnerable children who have experienced trauma in the past and now during the pandemic.

“Our constant presence is needed more than ever before to keep our children and families safe. We are seeing families struggling with parental stress, depression, and anxiety,” said Jenise Katalina, vice president of Family Support Services at Square One. “In particular, our families who are parenting while in addiction recovery are facing tremendous struggles. This is not an easy time for anyone, but for those who were already challenged and vulnerable, the need for support and potential for danger is heightened to a greater degree.”

Square One currently provides early learning services to more than 500 infants, toddlers, and school-age children each day, and family-support services to 1,500 families each year, as they work to overcome the significant challenges in their lives. The large majority of Square One families come from situations involving poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, incarceration, substance abuse, domestic violence, and other significant issues that may inhibit their ability to provide a quality early learning experience for their children, if the proper services are not made available to them.

To make a donation, visit or contact Kris Allard at or (508) 942-3147. If you are in need of emergency support, call the emergency on-call number, (413) 478-5197.