Living Through COVID-19 in South LA 

By Molly Jones Lopez

Throughout my work with Para Los Niños, I have seen many examples of powerful families and strong communities. To illustrate, I’d like to share a typical day in the life of one family in particular. 

Santiago starts his day early when he goes out to seek work in construction as a day laborer to provide for his family of five. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency and safer-at-home order, work has become increasingly limited, meaning his work hours, and consequently the family’s income, have drastically suffered. Despite the eviction protections in place in the County of Los Angeles, the family worried their status as undocumented immigrants would complicate legal matters, and made the decision to move out of their apartment following several months of unpaid rent. They now live in a motor home loaned to them by extended family. 

Meanwhile, Christina wakes the children and prepares the two elementary school-aged children, Jonathan and Natalia, for distance learning from home, setting up the laptops and internet hotspots on loan from school. Christina regularly picks up meals from LAUSD Grab & Go Food Centers and Para Los Niños’ task force food distribution. 

Every Tuesday afternoon, the family meets with me, a Family Preservation social worker at Para Los Niños, via telehealth or in-person at a local park. I offer a listening ear and supportive counseling, connect them to community resources, and increase safety for both parents and children. On Wednesdays, Christina attends PLN’s parenting class where she has learned about empathy, expressing feelings, and positive discipline. The youngest daughter, Sara, attends our weekly virtual play group with an early childhood specialist where she engages in nurturing family time activities with Mother that also help her develop motor skills, manage frustration, and engage in safe play. 

Their story highlights the family’s resilience and resourcefulness, and showcases how Para Los Niños’ Family Services uses coordinated efforts to support families in this difficult time. Through our services, the family has learned positive discipline strategies, implemented nurturing family activities that foster healthy growth and development, and has access to vital material support including food and diapers. 

Above all, the family has felt connected to a broader social support network, both formal and informal, that includes social workers, child development specialists, and peers. I look forward to continuing to work together with this family, and others like them, toward strong communities.

 *Names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.