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Tuesday, April 14, 2020 - 11:30am


Renee Blackwell CNR ’95, LMSW, is assistant director at Children’s Aid, a preventive program that serves families in Harlem in New York City. Deemed an essential worker, she continues to see families and children during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. “When families are dealing with things like domestic violence and mental illness, those problems don’t go away in a quarantine,” Blackwell explained. “Just like doctors, firefighters and police officers, we're doing the work to make sure that children and families are safe.”

Blackwell, a College of New Rochelle (CNR) alumna and her staff of 12 have had to find new ways to check in with families and children through teleconferencing, phone calls and home visits only if necessary. “We check to see if each family has a phone,” she said. “If not, how do we get them a phone? Can the tablet the school gave them be used for a visit? If we’re teleconferencing, which platform is HIPAA-compliant? It gets complicated. But I don’t think twice about going to visit a family’s home if that’s what needs to happen.”

Blackwell reports that her faith plays an important role in keeping her grounded and motivated. “I remind myself why I do this work. I remember CNR’s motto: serviam. I’m giving service. In times like these, those who can need to step up and protect those who are vulnerable. But we all need to take time for self-care. If you don’t replenish yourself, you're not going to have anything to draw on. Maybe that's the larger purpose of this pandemic: to make us all slow down and think about the things that are very important to us.”

If anyone wants to help, Blackwell recommends donating to a nonprofit that is doing the work on the ground: “All nonprofits could use extra donations right now because more is being put on them.”

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