"We are not able to send our young people to their homes for safety, we are their home."
For over 35 years, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, has been serving young people who have endured hardships and found their way to Covenant House.
Never have our young people needed “Dr. Ken’s” expertise and compassion more than they do right now.
“These are times when the feelings of uncertainty are surrounding everybody,” said Dr. Ginsburg during a recent webinar on the COVID-19 crisis hosted by Quality Parenting Initiative, a national collaborative of Foster Care professionals and parents. “And for young people who have lived with uncertainty for their entire lives – who have never known whether they are going to be protected or not, accepted and embraced or rejected – for these young people uncertain times become even more difficult.”
Dr. Ginsburg stressed that it is important to be real with adolescents facing additional anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
“We need to start with the fact that these are tough times, we can’t sugarcoat what is happening,” he said. “That kind of real conversation is where we begin. Because when we begin there, we acknowledge that having emotions is good, talking about them is good, and being honest with our emotions is good.
“We can’t talk away uncertainty, we can’t pretend it away, but what we can do is join together,” said Dr. Ginsburg. “We can create safe settings, create a haven that says the world is complicated, but that in this space, we care about each other. In this space, we protect each other. In this space, I’ve got you, and you’ve got me.”
Dr. Ginsburg spoke of some of the specific challenges frontline staff face with young people dealing with the additional trauma of COVID-19.
"We are not able to send our young people to their homes for safety, we are their home,” he said. “We serve young people who have earned the right to be hyper-vigilant for potential disruptions and hyper-alert to the potential that a crisis will erupt at any moment.
“Tragically, their lives may not have taught them that adults will be protective of them or even keep them safe,” he said. “In fact, some young people have learned the opposite. This means that we have an amazing opportunity to be the kind of adult young people deserve in their lives. This will install a different reality in the rapidly developing adolescent brain—one in which they grow to see how protective healthy relationships can be.
“We can help them learn that individuals may be fragile, but that when we join together, we are stronger than the sum of each of our individual strengths. Our loving, compassionate, and protective presence—especially now in times of crisis—will potentially have lifelong, perhaps even intergenerational impact."
Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg is a professor of Pediatrics in Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Director of Health Services, Covenant House Pennsylvania; and the director of The Center for Parent and Teen Communication.
He is also the author of Several Books, including "Building Resilience in Children and Teens" and the interdisciplinary toolkit "Reaching Teens: Strength-based, Trauma-sensitive, Resilience-building Communication Strategies Rooted in Positive Youth Development.
To view the full webinar, “The Power of Connection: How Resource Families Can Support Adolescents Through COVID-19 Crisis,” click here.