Despite City-Wide Closures, Bryan’s House Still Caring For At-Risk Families

Like so many charities and organizations that were planning the luncheons, galas, and fashion shows that were major fundraisers for the year, Bryan’s House had to cancel its April “Pathways to Inclusion” luncheon after it became very, very clear that the novel coronavirus was not going to skip Dallas, but instead was going to hit the city head-on.

The organization, which got its start 30 years ago, serves children with medical or developmental needs, as well as their families, by providing specialized childcare, respite care, and other social services.

Obviously, concerns about the often medically fragile children and families served,  have been at the forefront for the organization, which is still working to shift the way it helps clients.

“We are still providing all our programming to at-risk parents and their one or more children with special health and education needs, online, virtually 24/7, and coordinating therapy and parent trainings with/and for their kids so we don’t lose important milestones in their progress,” said Bryan’s House  CEO Abigail Erickson. “Our bilingual case managers have been outstanding to stay in constant contact with our clients, almost daily.”

The organization moved every program to a virtual format and is overseeing 800 for a variety of needs, including mental health help, basic necessities, food, medicine for children, baby items, and more. Bryan’s Place also worked to help suddenly out of work clients find work and has helped others by advocating with employers.

The agency also continues providing educational programming and is training parents on how to suddenly become teachers.

“Our medically fragile kids are too high risk to be served onsite at the agency, so after (Dallas County Judge) Clay Jenkin’s decree last week, we made the hard decision to close class onsite for eight weeks,” Erickson said. “We are normally there to help at just this precise time! It’s a hard situation to be in.”

So far, she said, there are about 30 parents out of work and 11 coping with a reduction in hours.

“It will get much higher and we are working to get them new jobs using opportunities created to help other nonprofits like Amazon and North Texas Food Bank,” Erickson said.

Erickson said the organization is also available for other nonprofit agencies that may come across a family that fits their mission.

“We can help with case management,” she said.

Erickson said that Bryan’s House’s focus on kids with special needs in the infant to age 3 range might not be in the wheelhouse for some organizations, but “we know that population well.”

We don’t want our unique and very, very at-risk population to fall through the cracks,” she said. “They will need our wrap-around programs and services when we are through the worst, to come back full-time onsite for care – and our waitlist will be FULL.”

Erickson said that Bryan’s House is trying to raise $97,000 to keep special education teachers that are hourly employees paid for two months, since it can’t tap into existing grant money that normally pays them.

So far, the agency has raised $71,000 or so, thanks to donations from Moozie Foundation and Liberty Mutual Foundation, as well as private donations and board members, which Erickson said will keep the 14 teachers paid for six weeks while they work at home.

We also set up a COVID-19 fund for families,” Erickson said. “We need about $40,000. So far, we’ve raised and spent $5,000 of that last week, to keep families under a roof and medications and other utility needs afloat.”

And while the Pathways to Inclusion luncheon has been rescheduled, the raffle is still going – and the drawing is June 30. Tickets are still on sale, click the image below for details.

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, deputy editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at bethany.erickson@peoplenewspapers.com.

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