Voices    Coronavirus, Lifestyle

Finding a new normal: Executive director at Dee Norton discusses COVID-19 impacts on child advocacy

woman speaking at podium
Carole Swiecicki | Photo provided by Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center

As our community works to collectively adjust to this new normal, we want to share the perspectives of people in the Charleston community who are working to adapt their lifestyles, family dynamics, business models, workflow, + more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we’re hearing from Carole Swiecicki, a licensed psychologist and the Executive Director at the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center where she works to prevent abuse, protect children, and heal families.

Interested in sharing your own experiences? Click here to submit.

How has your work been affected by coronavirus?
I am fortunate to have been able to work remotely from home, which the majority of our staff moved to on March 17. We have two teams of direct service providers that rotate going in the office for essential, emergency services. These include forensic interviews, child and family advocacy, and medical examinations (provided by MUSC’s Child Abuse Pediatrics Division) for children with imminent concerns for child abuse.

How has your personal life and/or family been affected by coronavirus?
My husband also is working from home, so like so many we are adjusting to this new routine. I am loving getting to spend more time with my family and walking in the evenings in this amazing weather!

What impacts do you think the pandemic will have on your life and/or business as time goes on?
While this is a chaotic and unprecedented time, it is also helping us come together, as we always do, to support one another and come up with creative solutions. Both at work and personally, I think that this will help us reflect on the “necessary” parts of our lives and businesses so that we are not as bogged down with things that ultimately are not the most important things.

On a more pragmatic level, Dee Norton relies heavily on grants and generous donations from our community, we have needed to pivot in our service delivery (for example, implementing telehealth requiring software and hardware that were not budgeted) and I expect some changes in funding priorities. I hope our generous community will understand the tremendous need for continuing to respond to child abuse, as experts expect (and have already begun to see in other places) that this crisis will increase abuse among our community’s children.

What can members of the community do to support your business and others like it during this time?
Child abuse, including witnessing domestic violence, is expected to rise dramatically during this time, and our services will be more needed than ever. Please consider donating to support our response to child abuse! Any amount will help – right now we have urgent needs for funds to support producing podcasts to help caregivers reduce stress so they can support their children during this pandemic. We also could use funds to support telehealth platforms for continuity in therapy services for abused children and to implement tele-forensic interviews so that we can expand our ability to help children currently in need.

What do you look forward to doing the most once everything goes back to normal?
Having my family visit and going out to eat!
My parents live out of town and I’m excited to see them in person again rather than through video calls. And our restaurant industry is so phenomenal – I am looking forward to a dinner out with my husband!

What message do you have for the Charleston community right now?
It is okay to acknowledge that this unprecedented event is difficult. Give yourselves, and each other, patience and grace – we can get through this together.