November is National Family Caregivers month! Best Starts for Kids would like to thank caregivers of all kinds – from adults caring for elderly parents, to elderly parents caring for grandchildren, to neighbors offering a helping hand. Through our Child Care Health Consultation (CCHC) investments, community organizations are building a robust system of support for caregivers and children across King County.
Hueiling Chan, Program Director and Case Management Clinical Director for Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC), needed a better way to involve grandparents serving as caregivers for their grandchildren, as is traditional in many Chinese communities. Many children visiting CISC’s Best Starts for Kids-funded Kaleidoscope Play & Learn groups are brought by their grandparents.
“Being a caregiver can be very isolating,” Hueiling explained, “Grandparent caregivers are even more isolated because of language and cultural barriers. They’re not able to get the most updated information on things like brain development, parents as first teachers, or how to use play to help children grow.”
CISC has worked for more than four decades to help Asian immigrants make the transition to life in King County, while also keeping younger generations in touch with their heritage. Their work is designed to help families make sure their children from birth to age five are kindergarten-ready by bridging cultures, communities and generations.
Hueiling noticed children cared for by grandparents had their basic needs met, but grandparents didn’t know how to engage in more positive interactions. Some tended to use television as a babysitter. “They think their grandchild can learn English by watching TV, not knowing that ‘The Simpsons’ is for adults,” Hueiling said. CISC needed a way to engage and support grandparents beyond Play & Learn groups.
CISC previously received funding from the expiring Seattle Families and Education Levy to offer home visits to family, friend, and neighbor caregivers. The pilot program was a huge success, but support from the levy only lasted one year. “We had a lot of grandparents saying, ‘I wish you could do that program again!'” Hueiling said. After receiving Best Starts for Kids funding for their CCHC program, CISC brought the family, friend and neighbor caregiver program back in August of this year.
With this funding, CISC has begun sending liaisons into the community for monthly visits with grandparents and their grandchildren. The liaisons support grandparent caregivers in their home by providing culturally-relevant material and community resources; safety checks and lead testing; developmental screening and early intervention; and activities to do with their grandchildren which promote healthy brain development. Community liaisons can better identify the needs of individual caregivers and design visits around these unique needs. Hueiling described one grandmother that was exhausted caring for twins – she had little energy to chase after them or do other physical activities. The community liaison was able to show her lighter physical activities that could facilitate the children’s development and were within her physical means.
“Caregivers love us,” Hueiling said, “We started with once-a-month visits, but most ask for more. Now we’re doing two visits per month for some. The demand is there.”
Learn more about Chinese Information and Service Center on their website.