When I was given the opportunity to do my student placement with Renascent’s Family Care Team this year, I was thrilled. I’ve heard for years about the magic that happens in the Essential Family Care Programs, and I couldn’t wait to witness it firsthand. What I couldn’t have anticipated was that I would also watch the team pivot their delivery in response to COVID-19 — within days, the Introduction to Family Care program, for adults whose lives have been overturned by another person’s addiction, was being delivered online, as well as the weekly alumni support group for that program. Within weeks, a Family Team member and I were working together to develop the Children’s Bridge Program, a weekly online program for children who are waiting to be able to attend Renascent’s regular four-day Children’s Healthy Coping Skills program in person. We also launched an online version of the children’s alumni support group, called Children’s Check-In.
I was dubious at first — I had seen how people connected with each other when they did the programs and alumni nights in person. They get to know each other while making cups of tea or coffee, having snacks during the breaks, and chatting on their way out the door. How would they make the same kind of connection when they couldn’t even look each other in the eye? Within weeks, I was proven wrong. People who had never met face to face were sharing their successes and struggles as deeply and openly as they ever had, and being met with the same support and compassion that they would have expected at an in-person session. Even children have delighted at the opportunity to show us their favourite toys, play hilarious games with us, all while learning how to protect themselves from the impact that addiction is having on their lives.
What has also been incredible is that we have been able to offer all of these programs at no cost. For families who are struggling, for whatever reason, this has been a lifesaver. Addiction often creates financial ruin in families, and COVID-19 has caused its own financial problems for many families. Rather than add another stressor, Renascent has been able to step forward with genuine support, entirely free of charge, thanks to Renascent’s incredible donors.
I don’t know if donors can possibly understand the impact they have when they give enough money for us to be able to connect with children, whose parents are often in active addiction or very early recovery, once a week. I wish they could see how kids’ faces light up when we explain that they didn’t cause their parent’s addiction, that they can’t control it, and they can’t cure it. Children also take enormous comfort in hearing that their addicted parent loves them as much as they ever did, they just have a disease that makes it difficult for them to express it sometimes. Being able to explain addiction to children, in an age-appropriate way of course, makes such a difference in their lives.
As my placement wraps up, I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to see the magic of Renascent’s Essential Family Care Programs up close, especially as they shifted in response to COVID-19. The team is fiercely committed to their work, and the Family Alumni are a testament to how transformative the work has been for people whose lives were once turned upside down by a loved one’s addiction. I’m excited to see the Family Care programs adapt and grow as the online delivery of programs means they’re more accessible now than ever before.