Imagine yourself arriving to a new country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know anyone, feel alone, stranded and scared. You’re trying to find a job to survive. Desperately looking for a place to live, a safe community, and a school for your children. If you are not able to quickly navigate the multifaceted systems, you and your family are at risk of winding up on the streets.
That’s how many newly arrived immigrants feel when they land in the United States. If they’ve chosen to start their new life in the Seattle-King County region, they can count on organizations like St. Vincent de Paul to help navigate the landscape of available resources.
Since 1920, SVdP has been responding to the unique plight of immigrant families. Today, SVdP continues to prioritize immigrant families’ needs through its Centro Rendu programs for Latino families. “We are about proximity, listening, and being fully present to our neighbors.” says Mirya Muñoz-Roach, executive director of SVdP of Seattle | King County.
Centro Rendu of SVdP has had the good fortune of partnering with Best Start for Kids since 2018 to assist families and youth to reach their full potential. More recently, BSK strategies have expanded to include the “Help Me Grow” network.
“King County’s Help Me Grow is a network that connects families in our community to resources that meet them where they are,” says Devon Love, Help Me Grow systems manager with Best Starts for Kids. “Without help, many families struggle to connect to culturally relevant resources offered in their own language.”
Ninety percent of a child’s brain develops before age 5. What happens during those formative years sets the stage for future learning, behavior and health. Much of the funding for Best Starts for Kids is dedicated to providing support during this key window of development in early childhood, Love says.
Through Help Me Grow, families can get early childhood development screening. This screening lets parents know if their baby is meeting certain milestones like smiling, walking, waving and talking — at the right time or if the child has developmental delays.
Why are these specific resources important? Love says her team held a series of community cafes to better understand what local families needed to give their children the best start in life.
“King County’s Help Me Grow network responded to the outcomes of those cafes by strengthening the network of organizations that understand the language, culture and needs of the families in our communities,” says Love.
Another feature of Best Starts for Kids’ Help Me Grow King County network is the Early Childhood Resource and Referral line housed in SVdP, launched in February of this year.
When Latino immigrant families call the SVdP Centro Rendu Early Childhood Resource and Referral line at 253-499-4245 and choose option 4, a SVdP Family Connector refers them to the resources they need for their children under five.
“Instead of giving the client a list of phone numbers, our Spanish-speaking Family Connectors first contact the referral organization to confirm they are still active and providing services and then we stay involved to help with any language barriers or other obstacles that may arise,” says Adriana Lopez, SVdP Help Me Grow Family Connector.
“Each family has different needs and it’s important to connect each to the right resources at the right time,” says Love. “These services include programs that promote healthy child development and also offer home-based services for parents and caregivers.”
Latino immigrants can also get assistance filling out health insurance forms, are connected to the nearest food bank, introduced to parenting classes, low-cost medical help, legal services, basic needs and whatever else they might need. The process is monitored along the way to ensure effective connections, Lopez says.
“An added bonus of having SVdP committed and participating in this work is that Help Me Grow families can access SVdP’s own ‘Network of Care,’ which reaches across the county with over 1000 volunteers in every neighborhood, ready to listen, respond and connect with needed services,” says Muñoz-Roach.
Not only do the Latino families and caregivers benefit from all these programs, Love says, everyone in the community wins when kids get a strong start in life.
St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle/King County’s Centro Rendu, founded in 2013, exists to protect, support and defend Latino immigrant families through education, social services, legal advocacy and leadership development that empowers and strengthens healthier communities and future generations.