What was the norm is out the window in just about every aspect of life with the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are no students in schools, no cinephiles at the movie theaters and no gourmands in the restaurants.

Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services counselors and social workers who typically provide face-to-face counseling in client homes are changing how to communicate with its families. Phone conferences are happening regularly and teleconferencing is possible.

Social workers and counselors normally meet in a family’s home to teach parenting skills and empower adults to be self-sufficient.

“We are following all available precautions from the CDC to prevent unnecessary risks,” said David Thompson, president and CEO of Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services.

“The kids in our care live with a lot of stress already,” Thompson said, “so we’re monitoring their physical and mental health even more than usual.”

Michelle Villarreal, licensed family and child specialist, mans the Temple office and is responsible for services in Bell County.

Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services offer a variety of residential- and community-based programs across three states.

Villarreal said the counseling by phone seems to be working out and she is checking in more often with families that have less access. Referrals can come from any resource, but mostly come through the schools and the children’s hospital, she said.

Services are free.

Villarreal has 12 to 16 clients most of the time.

“Our work is mostly counseling- and parenting-based,” she said. “We know this is a stressful time for parents having their kiddos at home and working from home.”

This may be a time families need more support because of the extra stresses, Villarreal said.

Each case is reassessed at six months, but if the family goals are accomplished in two weeks, that’s fine, too.

Some of the referrals from schools are about keeping youngsters responsive to instruction, Villarreal said. The hospital will contact her about families that need additional community resources.

“There are quite a few ways that we can connect with families,” she said.

The main concern right now is to let families know that staff is here for them, even during calls for social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates, Villarreal said.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to meet their needs,” she said.

The financial impact of social distancing remains to be seen. Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services operate in multiple cities and already canceled three fundraising events.

“Normally, those luncheons raise more than $300,000 and they’re critical to funding our services,” Thompson said. “We’ll need to look at other options as this situation unfolds.”