May 06, 2021

Want to Support New York City’s Recovery? Support the Moms

The key to bringing this city back is to build a safety net for mothers.

By Dr. Kelly Escobar, Senior Program Officer | FUEL, Mom to Emilia and Celina and Meghan Naik, Senior Manager | Family Philanthropy, Mom to Mina and Amara

A mom playing with her daughter

The struggle felt by mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic was universal: Moms truly did it all, under tremendous pressure and fear.

For mothers living in poverty, that stress was compounded with the mental and physical health challenges brought on by the pandemic. Most low-wage jobs didn’t have a work-from-home option, and many of those moms were the very essential frontline helping keep New York City afloat… Many moms had to cut back on work hours to focus on caregiving and helping their children with remote schooling. Moms were isolated from their communities, taking on more roles than ever and trying to give 100% to each of them.

How do you divide yourself to provide quality attention for your kids, your employer and all the family, friends and neighbors who rely on you? You give up a lot of yourself for everyone else.

So Robin Hood is supporting the moms, not only by funding programs that focus on maternal mental health and childcare, but also by ensuring that whenever the bottom drops out again, women will find solid ground beneath them.

At the height of the crisis, food pantry usage tripled. Young children were waiting in lines miles long to receive emergency food at pantries while moms were home sick with COVID. So even the most basic question — “how will I put food on the table?” led to endless worry. There was never a moment of solace. Every decision moms made during the pandemic was riddled with risk, their fears multi-layered: Who will take care of my kids? When can I see my family? How do I locate reliable WiFi for remote learning? How do I get to my job? Can a frontline worker continue living with us? And what will happen if this exposure results in COVID-19 for my family?

Robin Hood’s community partners are working to build a safety net that will withstand countless more crises. Before COVID-19 hit, 50% of Black and Latinx single mother households were living in poverty and, at the height of the pandemic, the local women’s labor force shrunk to a low we had not seen in three decades.

Robin Hood will continue to support low-income families with food, housing, and benefits; support mental health and workforce programs to get moms back on their feet; and invest in accessible, affordable, and quality childcare so they don’t have to choose between taking care of their kids and earning a living.

Here’s how Robin Hood partners are holding up the moms that make this city run:

  • The Yale School of Medicine’s MOMS Partnership works to reduce depressive symptoms and increase social and economic mobility among over-burdened, under-resourced mothers, to strengthen generations of families to flourish and succeed. They’re providing stress management and clinical mental health services for moms in partnership with several community organizations, including:
  • Children of Promise in Brooklyn and the South Bronx, supporting families with incarcerated mothers as moms prepare for reunification with their children.
  • Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in Manhattan and Queens to culturally adapt mental health services for Chinese and Chinese-American mothers, pairing a clinician with a member of the community to serve as mental health ambassador.
  • United for Brownsville in Brooklyn to bring mental health supports for mothers to local community hubs — in places where they feel most supported within their community (such as their church, laundromat, and beauty salons).
  • Yale is partnering with the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS), too, to build out the infrastructure to provide the MOMs Partnership model for mothers with young children living in shelter as part of citywide programming in all family shelters.
  • Home-based childcare providers, many of whom are moms themselves, came to the rescue when other moms didn’t have the luxury of working remotely. In impoverished neighborhoods, home-based childcare providers are often the only option for mothers, providing a safety net within a desert of childcare centers. Using Yale’s model of early childhood mental health consultation, informed by the Climate of Health Interactions for Learning and Development (CHILD) Tool, Robin Hood is helping care providers with critical mental health supports that create high-quality and safe environments for both caregivers and children. There’s also a federal push to support childcare with the American Rescue Plan increasing the access and supporting those childcare providers from closing.
  • Community partners like Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW) are preparing women for lucrative construction jobs that will not only rebuild New York City but also rebuild their families and their communities.

When you support mothers’ mental health so they don’t fall apart, then the whole family system can be that much stronger. The state of being a mom living in poverty is an emergency. It’s our job to give parents the tools and skills to be able to cope with this now — and in the future.