Parent Support Groups Grow During Pandemic


Parent Support Groups Grow During Pandemic

In March, the Family Support teams at Marillac Social Center and St. Vincent de Paul Center faced a significant question; how do we provide support for parents if we can’t host onsite support groups? The West Side and North Side centers have organized parent support groups for years, inviting families to join several times a month to learn about child development and engage in family activities.

Both centers chose to move to virtual parenting groups and adjusted their models to focus on what was most pressing in the time of a pandemic, “We wanted to really focus on the engagement piece. Giving families activities they can do together while also providing some relief for parents... a bit of a break.” said Director of Family Support at the St. Vincent de Paul Center, Nicole Kusack.

“Our first virtual meeting was very informal. It was just a visual check-in to see how everyone was doing. Then we realized we would be stuck inside another month and we did a virtual meeting about self-care and social distancing and what that looks like. ” Explained Marillac Social Center Lead Family Support Specialist, Samantha Goga. The staff brought in MSV’s Mental Health Consultant and provided resources to support wellness at home.

Since that first meeting, the Family Support teams have worked hard to create engaging group activities. Sessions have included Zumba classes, games, family workouts, and even incorporated in-home scavenger hunts.

Recently St. Vincent started sending children home with supplies so that no family is excluded from these support group activities. Kusack explained, “I don’t want a person not to join just because they don’t have the crayons or whatever supplies are needed.” With many parents still at home, the support groups have continued to grow during the pandemic, “We’ve been able to reach a lot more parents than we thought. Parents who wouldn’t normally be able to attend in person can now log in on their phone and tune in virtually. It has taught us a lot. Even when we start groups back in person, we may still keep a virtual option to increase engagement.” said Goga.

As MSV enters a new reopening stage, neither center is certain about how these parent support groups will look. For now though, both will continue offering virtual support groups to any family who is interested in joining.

If you are interested in joining the St. Vincent de Paul Center Parent Support Group, contact Nicole Kusack at for more information.

If you are interested in joining the Marillac Social Center Parent Support Group or if you would like to be a guest speaker at an upcoming group, contact Samantha Goga at for more information.

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  • Foglia Family & Youth Center
    2859 W. Jackson Blvd. Chicago, IL 60612
  • Marillac Social Center
    212 S. Francisco Ave. Chicago, IL 60612
  • St. Vincent de Paul Center
    2145 N. Halsted St. Chicago, IL 60614