Navigator is a program for young people aged 12–17 who, for a wide range of reasons, have disengaged from school. The program aims to work with young people and their families to understand what’s going on in a young person’s life and address those challenges to get them back on a pathway to learning.
In recognition of the vital role education plays in keeping vulnerable young people connected to community and on the right track, Jesuit Social Services runs this program in some of the most disadvantaged areas across the State.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, we had to re-evaluate the way we deliver services like these that rely so heavily on building strong and trusting relationships between our staff and participants.
While we have been able to maintain face-to-face contact with the majority of our Navigator participants, it has not always been possible.
Annabelle Beckert-Berger is a case worker with our Navigator program who works with Beth. Beth has a range of health concerns and is immunocompromised – making face-to-face contact during this period too risky.
Annabelle has maintained connection to Beth through twice-weekly phone calls and has supplemented these calls by arranging for our Artful Dodgers Studios to drop-off art supplies to help Beth tap into her creative streak whilst in isolation. She has also provided board games, like Monopoly, that the whole family can play during the evenings.
“Like everyone, we have had to adapt but we’ve been able to maintain that important relational aspect of our work,” says Annabelle.
COVID-19 has made it especially difficult for young people living in vulnerable and disadvantaged households to stay connected to education. Annabelle was able to work with Beth and other support services to ensure that her school provided a laptop and dongle. This not only enabled Beth to continue her learning but, crucially, also meant that she could keep connected with allied health professionals and mental health supports through telehealth appointments.
Once the restrictions have been relaxed further, Annabelle is very much looking forward to resuming outreach with Beth and continuing to support her engagement with school.