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Serving Children with Special Healthcare Needs During the Pandemic

Serving Children with Special Healthcare Needs

In this webinar, Dr. Teri Wahlig, CEO of ChildServe, shares how the organization has been able to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have tapped into their core values to provide strength to the organization and those they serve and to capture the spirit of a child through joy, hope, creativity and innovation. ChildServe provides specialized clinical, home and community-based programs and services to nearly 4,600 children each year from locations throughout Iowa. Their primary focus during this time has been to maintain the health and safety of the children and young adults, the families they serve and the organization’s team. During her presentation, Dr. Wahlig outlines how ChildServe has managed the pandemic through preparation, mitigation and innovation.

Encouraging Learning + Innovation

The first step in preparing their response to COVID-19 was to set up a command center to gather and disseminate information and make necessary adaptations to their services. They have found that the command center has also become an incubator of learning and innovation.

With over 30 different services under the ChildServe umbrella, leaders knew there would not be a one size fits all approach to managing their operation and mitigating the impact of COVID-19. They evaluated each area individually to determine steps that needed to be taken. For example, they have added layers of protection for infection control for services that require inpatient care. They were fortunate to have a vacant area in their 240,000 square-foot facility in Johnston available to establish an overfill area for their long-term care unit within three days. This allowed them to provide further distancing of the patients in their care.

Adapting Communication

Another shift for ChildServe during the pandemic has been to adapt and increase their communication style and reach. They now have more frequent, direct communication with people at all levels of the organization. They have found their new communication model to be more networked, electronic and with larger groups. Information and feedback are happening in a timelier fashion.


Mitigation strategies include changing how they deliver care, looking at how their workforce functions and evaluating how they manage their business. A major change has been to successfully provide more than 60% of their outpatient visits and therapy through telehealth. These services include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, mental health, psychology, autism and respite care. ChildServe is pleased to report that telehealth is working even better than expected and may even extend their reach after the pandemic ends. Another change has been the move to remote work for over 300 team members.

ChildServe also provides childcare which is still needed by many families who are essential workers and need these services; however, their attendance is down as more parents are able to work from home. The childcare centers found that many of the children were missing their friends, so they have set up weekly Zoom meetings with kids at the centers and those at home to enjoy time together electronically.

During the webinar, Dr. Wahlig provides many additional examples of how their organization has been able to adapt and innovate during this time.

Watch the complete webinar below:


You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

The Greater Des Moines Partnership is the economic and community development organization that serves Greater Des Moines (DSM), Iowa. Together with 23 Affiliate Chambers of Commerce, more than 6,500 Regional Business Members and more than 400 Investors, The Partnership drives economic growth with one voice, one mission and as one region. Through innovation, strategic planning and global collaboration, The Partnership grows opportunity, helps create jobs and promotes DSM as the best place to build a business, a career and a future. Learn more at DSMpartnership.com.