“The anchor of community connections:” Help Me Grow King County

Since 2017, Best Starts has partnered with community to build Help Me Grow King County, a community-driven network that aims to connect families and caregivers with children under age 5 to community-based resources and early childhood developmental supports.

“HMG KC responds to our families, connecting us to what we need, when we need it, and how we need it.”

Expanding the Collaborative Community Based Organization (CBO) Partnership

Through the HMG KC Collaborative CBO Partnership, 27 Best Starts partners have been identifying gaps in our systems of care and co-creating a network that centers family and community knowledge. Meeting monthly, partners have come together to share their learnings with each other and connect families to culturally, linguistically, and geographically matched referrals and resources around King County, from childcare to health services.

An important part of this work includes strengthening organizational and direct service capacity and supporting the professional development of providers who care for our young children. Some examples include piloting and ensuring more routine access to culturally and linguistically specific workforce development trainings for providers, evaluating services, and reflecting community expertise by recruiting and mentoring community members into workforce leadership positions.

We’ll continue to share information and opportunities to engage with the HMG Collaborative Community Based Organization Partnership as we implement Best Starts for Kids 2.0. To stay updated, subscribe to our blog and newsletter!

Connecting the Hassan family to community

When Felsan Abdi, Voices of Tomorrow’s (VOT) Resource and Referral Coordinator, first met Bunta and Kemila in June 2020, they had just enrolled their four-year old son, Gemechu, in VOT’s Somali-English dual language preschool program. The family had just moved from Utah a couple of months earlier after deciding that they wanted to raise their two young sons closer to a community that reflects their culture and values. Having previously immigrated from Oromia, Ethiopia, to Utah, Bunta and Kemila were prepared to navigate challenges in a new city, but it was a difficult transition, and they were struggling to maintain stable housing and work — the pandemic had quickly intensified the existing inequities that BIPOC communities faced.

After receiving the results from Gemechu’s Ages & Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), a routine developmental screening, Felsan sat down with the family to discuss Gemechu’s behavioral progress. When she highlighted some concerns that had surfaced, Bunta and Kemila shared that they had already noticed that Gemechu was not expressing his emotions and communicating as clearly as they had expected for his age and wondered how much their move to Seattle was affecting him. Slowly, they began to tell Felsan about their move to Seattle and the challenges they were facing during the pandemic.

Developmental screenings are an important tool for parents and child service providers to understand and celebrate our children’s growth.

Through the HMG KC network, Felsan connected the family to culturally specific resources and providers with the capacity to support their unique needs:

  • Provided social-emotional resources, Vroom tools, and sensory activity packets developed by VOT staff, available in both Amharic and English, to help Bunta and Kemila model and show Gemechu how to express his emotions.
  • Received free covid-19 responses including funds to help cover their bills, food vouchers, and personal protective equipment like masks and hand sanitizer.
  • Provided rental assistant support and connected the family to King County Housing Authority to begin looking for a new home.
  • Connected Gemechu to Child-Find to ensure that he will receive support services once he reaches Kindergarten and public schooling and helped to set up healthcare insurance coverage for the family.
  • Connected the family to the local Muslim community and the Sheikh (Islam spiritual leader) after hearing how important their spiritual community is to the family.

“With Help Me Grow, VOT and our team becomes the anchor of community connections for our families,” says Sarah Loeffler, Voices of Tomorrow’s Director of Advocacy, Training, and Development. “We can go in-depth with families and look at situations where there are initial challenges. From there, we then bring multiple people to the table who look like our families, speak their language, and understand their culture while helping them navigate systems and access services and resources that support their growth.”

Today, Bunta, Kemila, and their sons are now transitioning into a new home and share that Gemethu has made great progress in expressing his emotions. “I have been fortunate enough to have found a community here who shares the same values as me and my family,” Bunta says, “An organization that went above and beyond to try and meet my challenges and satisfy my families need. I thank god every day. All good comes from the almighty above. There’s more work to be done and I’m just so grateful to have great support by my side.”

If you have questions about the Help Me Grow King County network, please contact helpmegrow@kingcounty.gov.

Learn more about Help Me Grow King County:

Help Me Grow One-Pager

Announcing Expanding Help Me Grow Partners (June 2020)

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