On December 31, 2019, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission in China reported that there had been a recent spike of pneumonia cases coming from that area. This illness was later identified as a coronavirus, and by March of 2020, the disease had spread across the globe. Accordingly, the World Health Organization became “[d]eeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” and they “made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.” (WHO, 2020) Vermont took action on Friday, March 13, when Governor Phil Scott declared the Green Mountain State was in a state of emergency. Scott later announced on March 26, 2020, that Vermont schools would remain closed until the 2020-2021 school year. (Scott, 2020)
Image retrieved from http://usgenwebsites.org/VTGenWeb/Franklin-Co-VT.htm
Franklin County is in the remote northwest corner of Vermont bordering Lake Champlain to the west and Quebec, Canada, to the north. WCAX news reported that as of April 23, 2020, Franklin County was home to 90 out of the 825 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Vermont. That’s 10.9% of Vermont’s COVID-19 cases in Franklin County at that time. (WCAX, 2020)
The extended school and business closure had families of Franklin County suffering from the frustrations of creating new routines while homeschooling, sometimes multiple children of different age groups. So in this time of need, the people of Franklin County started giving back to their community in any way they could.
For example, according to the Vermont Agency of Education, one-third of Franklin NorthWest Supervisory (FNWSU) students were enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program in the 2018-2019 school year (VAE, 2019). As Michael Frett wrote in the local St. Albans Messenger, “On any given weekday, buses loaded with food and messages to ‘stay strong’ circle the towns of Franklin, Highgate and Swanton, delivering thousands of meals to the community’s children” (Frett, April 2, 2020).
Image retrieved from https://www.samessenger.com/news/mvsd-delivers-breakfast-lunch-by-the-thousands/article_45d63130-7526-11ea-b528-236d66db2059.html
On April 12, 2020 (Easter), the traditional egg hunts and gatherings were canceled due to COVID-19. The St. Albans Police Department brought cheer to the children that holiday weekend when an officer dressed up as the Easter Bunny rode around St. Albans Town and City. “If they can’t come to the bunny we’re going to bring the bunny to them,” officer Jonathan Garrant told WCAX. Families were more than pleased when they saw a giant Easter Bunny riding in a police car wishing a happy day to everyone (click on link below to watch the video).
(Hoffman, 2020, April 12)
I’m especially interested in how the crisis has been affecting the families and children in Franklin County, especially from a developmental perspective. “Psychodynamic theory states that events in our childhood have a great influence on our adult lives, shaping our personality,” (S. McLeod, 2017). Psychodynamic Theory references why we are the way we are: our childhood experiences, our conscious and subconscious, and our personalities.
I started noticing how many parents were posting on social media about needing to make sure their children are being educated, while wanting their children to know the world is still a safe place, and giving them a developmentally holistic environment.
In addition, Franklin County citizens are re-thinking their choices and becoming more conscious about things like proper hygiene, exercise, daily routines. A Franklin County parent confessed to me, “There’s not much to do so I’m trying to go for walks every day. I figured I never really exercise anyway, this could be a great time to start.” (Anonymous, April 2020, personal communication)
One family in particular gained my attention when I saw the mother’s social media posts. I know this family personally and asked the mother if I could interview her once a week and talk with her six-year-old son, as well. She agreed, and her family of five were delightful to work with! (I’ve used pseudonyms to protect their privacy.)
Jackson is a six-year-old boy with two older brothers (14 and 12). Both of his parents (Laura and Stu) have two jobs each (one full-time and one part-time each), and all four jobs have been deemed essential during the time of COVID-19. Jackson spends his mornings at home. On the days that his mom is home, he will spend his mornings with her. Most days she is at work by 6AM, and on those days he is able to get himself a bowl of cereal, eat with his brothers, and clean, play, or watch television until his grandmother picks him up at 11AM. They then go to her house and have lunch while working on his homework for school.
According to Jackson’s mother, Laura, he “has been having a really hard time with ‘virtual school.’ He doesn’t mind the work. He gets it all done with no problem but he misses his teacher and friends. (Laura, April 2020, personal communication) When Laura received an e-mail with a video that Jackson’s teacher had attached — saying hello, singing songs, and talking to the children — she showed Jackson, who began to weep at the sight of his teacher.
This is Jackson’s first year of school and it has been an emotional roller coaster already. I don’t know how this pandemic will affect it. Will he want to go back? Will he be afraid of being around that many people? School is hard. It’s hard enough for [our middle child who struggles in school], I don’t know what I’ll do if Jackson hates school too. (Laura, April 2020, personal communication)
Jackson experienced trauma at a young age, and because of that he has trouble expressing his feelings appropriately. He has been known to switch moods very quickly with no warning, he has gotten physical with his parents and brothers in the past, and he has been reminded multiple times about the language six-year-olds may and may not use. According to Stu, Jackson’s father,
Jackson’s attitude has gotten worse since he’s been home. Oh yeah, it didn’t take much before to tick him off but it takes even less now. The weather’s getting nicer which will help. Being stuck in the house for this long is hard on the poor kid, I can’t imagine what it will be like if it’s like this much longer. (Stu, March 2020, personal communication)
In addition to interviewing Jackson’s family, I conducted a 10-question survey related to the COVID-19 pandemic in Franklin County. I used the four completed surveys as a kind of group interview, which confirmed similar information I had gathered from interviewing Laura and Stu.
— 50% of the survey takers said their children are eating the school breakfasts and lunches that are being sent out daily;
— 75% of the survey takers said they were able to stay home with their school-aged children; and
— 25% said they were deemed an essential worker.
Only one of the three parents who are able to stay home with their children said they felt “very comfortable” financially, despite the crisis. The others are struggling financially and worried.
Image retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/FranklinCountyNRCD/
Franklin County is a small but tough rural community full of strong people who, when faced with the threat of COVID-19, are fighting through their fears with the strength they give one another.
Frett, M. (2020, April 2). MVSD delivers breakfast, lunch by the thousands. Retrieved from https://www.samessenger.com/news/mvsd-delivers-breakfast-lunch-by-the-thousands/article_45d63130-7526-11ea-b528-236d66db2059.html
Hoffman, Z. (2020, April 12). St. Albans police department spreading Easter cheer [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.mynbc5.com/article/saint-albans-police-department-spreading-easter-cheer/32120467#
McLeod, S. (2017). The psychodynamic approach. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/psychodynamic.html
Office of Governor Phill Scott (Scott). (2020). Governor Scott dismisses Schools. Retrieve from https://governor.vermont.gov/press-release/governor-phil-scott-dismisses-schools-person-instruction-remainder-2019-2020-school
St. Albans Police Department Spreading Easter Cheer at https://www.mynbc5.com/article/saint-albans-police-department-spreading-easter-cheer/32120467
Vermont Agency of Education (VAE). (2019). Free and reduced eligibility report 2019. Retrieved from http://usgenwebsites.org/VTGenWeb/Franklin-Co-VT.htm
WCAX. (2020). Latest coronavirus numbers — WCAX continuing coverage. Retrieved from https://www.wcax.com/content/news/What-you-need-to-know-about-COVID-19-568630341.html
World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). WHO timeline – COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/08-04-2020-who-timeline—covid-19
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APA cite in text as: (Bushey, 2020)
APA cite in full References as: Bushey, J. (2020). How COVID-19 has affected Franklin County families. Vermont Psychology. Retrieved from https://wp.me/p4elXk-DO
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Jamie Bushey: I was born and raised in Franklin County, Vermont, where I was encouraged to express myself through art, whether that meant singing, writing, painting, photography, or anything in between. I like to think this helped me by giving me time to collect my thoughts, reflect, create, and move forward. I currently live in Northern Vermont with my partner and two cats while attending CCV. I work in the Infant/Toddler building at Heartworks in Shelburne, Vermont and hope to get my bachelor’s degree in Art Education.