As government leaders and private sector industries attempt to steer the nation through a health and economic maelstrom, so too are families navigating the challenges—and opportunities—presented as they hunker down at home trying to slow the spread of coronavirus.
But they’re not alone. Focus on the Family, a “Christian ministry that’s been helping families thrive” since 1977, is helping families through the current crisis in a number of ways.
“We are redoubling our efforts on daily broadcasts, and our programming has been adjusted to reflect the need,” Paul Batura, vice president of communications for Focus on the Family, told Townhall.
These programs, recorded with top experts such as U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, help answer common questions about the pandemic.
The Focus on the Family website has also been reimagined with a special page devoted to resources helping families navigate coronavirus. Families can find helpful advice ranging from how to talk to children about COVID-19 to staying sane while trying to work from home with little ones to educational activities for kids. Adventures in Odyssey, an award-winning audio drama series that teaches “lasting truths and bring[s] biblical principles to life,” according to its website, has also been made available free of charge for four weeks.
“We’re trying to be as understanding as possible with families who find themselves at home,” Batura said, noting the response has been huge, with more than 50,000 sign ups for Adventures in Odyssey. “Parents are, for the first time, faced with the prospect of homeschooling for an extended period of time. We have the resources to help.”
The organization also recently launched Focus@Home, a free streaming platform that includes some of Focus on the Family's most popular content.
“During this pandemic, we know a lot of people are struggling to find creative ways to engage their families and their kids, which is why we’re dedicated to offering resources through this platform at no charge," Focus President Jim Daly said in a statement. "Apart from our faith, nothing is more important than family in times like this. Together we can make the most of it and create a stronger family unit than ever before."
And since churches have had to shutter their doors like the rest of society, an entire section has been set up assisting families in strengthening their faith at home, including an online Bible study, family devotions, and more.
While the day-to-day grind has undoubtedly gotten harder for most families in quarantine, others may find themselves struggling in more significant ways.
For this reason, Focus on the Family is equally dedicated to helping marriages survive the crisis, keeping family finances strong, and caring for single mothers and pregnant women during the pandemic. Additional issues families may be facing, like handling grief and domestic violence, are also addressed.
“Our counseling team remains open and is continuing to take phone calls and counsel families through the one-hour calls we do, letting people know we have capacity,” Batura said, adding that additional times have been made available to accommodate the shifted schedules families now have.
“This type of a catastrophe, it’s a magnifier, it of course causes a lot of problems, but it magnifies problems that have existed a long time,” he explained. “So, we’re prepared to help, and our prayer is people feel comfortable calling us.”
Like families across the country, the organization is not “immune to any of the challenges” present in the current crisis, Batura said.
Hope Restored, the group’s marriage intensives for couples near divorce, which has an “80-plus percent success rate,” according to Batura, has had to postpone its in-person sessions which is central to the program.
“That’s a real challenge because for some of these couples this is their very last hope, their big prayer point to see what they could do,” he said. “We’re seeing about phone calls to bridge the gap and looking at online resources as well.”
Focus on the Family is also trying to balance the needs of families with the nature of being a nonprofit that’s dependent on generous benefactors.
“Ironically at a time when we’re probably in the weakest position from a resource/financial standpoint … we’re actually in a place where the tools and services we offer are needed now more than ever,” he said.
“These are pretty dark times but I think Christians are in a very unique place to bring hope and help to people,” Batura emphasized.
To request resources, seek help from a family specialist, or make general inquiries, Focus on the Family can be reached at 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459) or visited at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
This post has been updated to include Focus on the Family's new streaming platform, Focus@Home.