Being in community. What does that mean in the midst of the pandemic?
At Amara, it means not just supporting people in the communities we serve, it means joining with them to lift everyone up – children, youth, parents, caregivers, those seeking their adoption stories, those coping with difficult histories, and everyone who seeks healing. It means opening safe spaces for parents to connect with their children while they are in foster care. It means making sure caregivers can provide stability to children experiencing trauma. And it means being there for families when times are hard.
Recently, being in community has also meant hosting two vaccine events at our Pierce County office in partnership with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department. This was a first-time effort for us, and even though it may seem like ensuring that people have access to COVID-19 vaccines is a bit beyond supporting families experiencing foster care, we knew it was critical to show up for our Pierce County neighbors in this way. And wow, we are so glad we did!
Despite the freezing temperatures, black ice in early January, and the surge of the omicron variant, people came. Whole families dropped by to get vaccinated. Several adults who had not yet had a single shot came. Because appointments weren’t required, people with unpredictable work schedules or limited transportation could come with their friends and families. Foster parents came, and so did a couple of brand-new parents.
In total, our events helped more than 60 people get vaccinated with nearly half of people getting their first shot! Plus, we reached so many kids, which means so much to our team because in Pierce County, only 25% of kids 5-11 years old are vaccinated.
Key to our approach was to ensure we created an inclusive, family-friendly environment. We’re so grateful to our tribal partners for joining us to welcome families and share the power of traditional music when kids were scared. We provided children’s books to families, thanks to our friends at the Pierce County Library. Kids left with stuffed animals, crayons and coloring books and backpacks filled with school supplies. Several parents left with arms full of diapers and wipes for their babies. And the TPCHD made sure everyone left with free, at-home instant COVID-19 tests.
This event reminded us how diverse and incredible our Pierce County community is. There was a father and son who showed up early, both braving their first shots together. There was a new dad who got his first shot, and then traded places with his wife waiting in the car with their new baby so that she could get her first shot. A foster mom came and got her first shot along with much-needed supplies for two children newly placed in her care. A couple of moms came together with their children and left relieved to finally have everyone vaccinated. Their kids left with books, blankets, and school supplies.
Now, several dozen more people are vaccinated in Pierce County, reducing the threat of severe COVID-19 and death for many families and friends. Plus, more community members know Amara is here, ready to make a positive difference for children and families. And we are only getting started.