A team of researchers at UCR have been awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health and UCR’s Center for Health Disparities Research for their study, titled Parent Experiences of Remote Learning. This study is centered around the experiences of families with parents and school-aged children within the Inland Empire.
Jan Blacher, distinguished research professor in UCR’s Graduate School of Education, director of the SEARCH Family Autism Resource Center and one of the project leaders, spoke to The Highlander about the importance of this particular research endeavor.
She explained that though the negative impacts of school closures have likely been felt by all families, the effects may be much more far reaching among vulnerable populations, especially among young children who are dependent upon their caregivers, children with special education needs who have had their support services reduced and racial minority children. “For the richly diverse communities of the Inland Empire, pre-existing socioeconomic and health disparities likely exacerbated the consequences of school closures,” Blacher explained.
Dr. Richard J. Lee, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry in the School of Medicine and another project leader, also spoke to the importance of this study centering around the Inland Empire population. “According to data from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Riverside County had only 18 child psychiatrists practicing in a county with over 600,000 youth,” stated Lee.
According to both Blacher and Lee, the research that has already been conducted on COVID-19 has not placed any focus on the ways in which remote learning has contributed to health issues and disparities. With the PERL study, the research team hopes to gain insight into “parent-identified needs for information, resources and support that may be utilized to foster family well-being.”
This study is reportedly unique from other surveys that have been conducted in relation to the pandemic, firstly, in that the target population includes factors such as economic, race and ethnicity, children in K-12 and academic diversity. Secondly, the study is longitudinal with data collected from multiple points so as to gather descriptive data beyond a one-time point. Finally, they are focused on family resilience in addition to stressors, in the hopes of creating a more holistic picture of parental well being.
Blacher concluded by stressing that all participating families will be informed of the significance of their role in this research study. For the duration, they will be asked for objective parental reports of remote learning experiences using their own words; this level of agency is meant to establish a greater sense of empowerment and agency for these families. With these endeavors, she stated that the final product of the study will result in the community being more informed by trusted voices on “ways in which family resilience can be built in the face of COVID-19 challenges.”