Parents and caregivers are the first and best support for children. So when data revealed that children of color on the Eastside of King County were experiencing an “opportunity gap” in kindergarten readiness and third-grade-level reading, Eastside Pathways and NISO went directly to families to understand how parents and caregivers could be better supported in helping children succeed.
A pilot project now launching as part of Best Starts for Kids’ Innovation Fund responds to those needs, strengthening relationships between families and early learning providers on the East Side of King County to help kids thrive.
Listening and responding to families
Parents and caregivers trust the educators who care for their kids, but they don’t always know how to connect. Language is one barrier: schools aren’t always able to provide critical information in multiple languages.
The complexity of the early learning system is also a challenge. For any mom, dad, or caregiver, early learning needs to be turnkey. When families don’t have the knowledge and confidence to navigate the services they need, it adds to the stress of maintaining a stable, supportive home.
Families, communities, and providers working together
The Eastside Early Learning Facilitators (EELF) project is based on a community-designed model called “Promotores.” Through EELF, members of the Latino community in the Bellevue and Lake Washington school districts learn to serve as resources for their neighbors, with whom they share a language and a cultural context.
EELF engages families through family visits and early learning providers through the Providers Council. The approach increases families’ awareness of services and helps providers strengthen their relationship to the community — creating clear communication and a seamless flow of information between the adults who help children succeed.
That relationship is key to removing roadblocks for caregivers. One mother who participated in the program, for example, approached a facilitator asking for help with health and education services. Because the facilitator was so close to the community, they were able to look beyond the most urgent, basic needs.
In addition to health care and educational support, the facilitator connected the family to out-of-school programming for the kids and self-care services for the mom. Now, the family has more time and energy to enjoy weekends together. The mom also has learned how to advocate for herself and her own needs.
Communities care about their children
The EELF project is deeply entwined with community care and community strength. Co-designed from the ground up, the project is led by community members at every stage. That leadership is critical to create a rapid feedback loop between the needs of the community and the shape of the program.
It takes time, but it’s worth it. The community facilitators of the EELF project are making it easier for families to bring their dreams for their children to life. And through the lessons from this pilot project, many other families in diverse communities will benefit too.