What a year it's been
Raising a child with a disability or special health care need is very hard work.
The systems that parents or caregivers need to navigate are complicated and unforgiving. Families have to fight hard for what they need for their child. Even in ‘normal’ times, families can feel overburdened and stressed. Invisible. Unseen.
Systemic racism makes this harder for BIPOC.
Even in ‘normal times’, BIPOC families have had to struggle to get an equitable share of services. Dismissed. Neglected.
Families are being hit hard by COVID.
Many have children who need one-on-one help. Parents had no choice but to become defacto special education support and therapists. Some are not fluent English speakers, making it even harder. Others don’t have access to technology so their child can attend class or therapy. Some parents had to leave their jobs to be able to care for their child. Others have lost their jobs because of COVID. Parents are seeing their children regress in learning and behavior. Systems that were hard to navigate before have turned totally unresponsive.Parents are emotionally drained and isolated.
In March, we pivoted to try to address this new normal:
- For staff, we encouraged greater flexibility of work schedules and telecommuting. On calls, our staff spend extra time listening and providing peer-to-peer support to isolated families.
- We built resource lists specifically for families with children with delays, disabilities and special health care needs, making those widely available.
- We raised money for mini-grants for families to use toward supplies or rent.
- We collaborated with community partners to get tablets to families who needed them to access learning and therapy.
- We collected PPE from community partners and are giving them away to families in need.
It’s just a start in addressing the broad and deep needs of these families, but we hope it sends the message:
We see you.
- Eileen Crumm and Kausha King (FRN's executive team)
"This was very helpful because I currently don't have a job, and we did not receive the stimulus check."
These are times when a warm touch is more important than ever
When families aren’t sure what to do, they call the warmline. In the age of COVID19, the needs are deeper than ever before. It used to take an average of 18 minutes for our staff to address the worries someone has over the phone. These days, most calls are 45+ minutes, covering a wider range of issues than ever before - from basic living to complex medical conditions.
"Last week, I was contacted by a single mother who has five kids - one with disabilities.
She takes care of her children full time and she gets $1400 a month from their father. Rent is $1200 so that leaves her with $200 for food for a family of seven (including grandma). She has our list of places where she can go and get food at schools and that is helping her a lot. Unfortunately, she does not drive and that limits on what she can carry back home with her. She does not want to apply for food stamps because she is afraid that it will affect her immigration status and she does not want to become a "public charge." Grandma helps with what she can, but also has had her work hours cut. They are all struggling."
- Yaneth, Early Start Manager
This was a year to step up.
COVID-19 RESOURCE GUIDES
With families out of work and quickly losing income, food is a lifeline. We produced a resource guide of food banks, nonprofits and other free services for families across Alameda County.
With a severe shortage of PPE supplies, families are concerned about keeping their children safe, especially those with medical needs. We hosted PPE giveaways, distributing thousands of masks.
ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY
With partners Bananas and Alameda County Office of Education, we got 80 tablets in the hands of families so they could access therapy and educational resources for their children.
NEW CLASS OF LEADERS
Despite shelter-in-place, this year's class of parent leaders graduated in June. Eight new Spanish-speaking parent leaders are ready to support other families.
A VOICE FOR CHILDREN
Advocating on the Right Here, Right Now podcast, we are a voice for children who need help 24/7. We're helping file complaints and push school districts so their children get services they are entitled to under the law, even during COVID.
We launched an emergency mini-grants program providing $50-$250 to families in need. We awarded over $6,850 in mini-grants for rent, utilities, and for those who aren't eligible for federal relief money.
"To FRN, everybody. Thank you. It really helps. During this period, most family has pressure & stress at home especially inter-familial members. Trust me. Your deed resolve stress & make peace." - Francis
A story about creativity and thinking outside the box
When the shelter-in-place order started on the first day of Spring, this posed huge problems for families of children with complex medical conditions.
Parents and caregivers, relying on public transportation to shop for basic needs, would become too afraid to leave their home. What if they exposed their medically complex child to the virus?
The situation got even worse when face masks and sanitizers sold out everywhere. While local food pantries quickly offered contactless car pick-up, those without personal vehicles were struggling to provide food for their family.
April, one of FRN’s family navigators contacted the director of the San Lorenzo Family Help Center, with an idea: what if you could expand a service built for seniors to families with disabilities?
A program offering in-home food pantry delivery for seniors was soon expanded after an in-depth conversation. The director quickly secured funding and found additional volunteer drivers for FRN’s San Leandro, Hayward and even Oakland families with medically vulnerable children. Soon, doorstep food pantry delivery to 24 families with medically fragile children commenced: dairy items, bagged produce, canned food, snacks, boxed pantry goods, all tailored to specific dietary conditions (e.g. food allergies and diabetes). In times like these, collaboration is vital, especially for families who are unable to leave their house to keep their children safe.
About the project
Dedicated to: enhancing knowledge and bridging the gap in services provided to the Black community and other communities of color
On February 22, 2020, we hosted our first ever Family, Community Strengthening and Education Conference to raise the confidence of families in advocating for services for their child or children and also provide tools and resources to help. This conference was the inaugural event of FRN's Community Empowerment Project.
In Home Supportive Services - Families learned various strategies on accessing IHSS services and Protective supervision. With a very knowledgeable and engaging presenter, attendees walked away with a greater sense of what services their child or young adult might qualify for and what to do.
Parent to Parent Conversation: Working with the Regional Center - This parent-led workshop focused on tips and ideas on how to get services for children with disabilities through the Regional Center; and the process of and how to structure an Individual Program Plan (IPP) to benefit the needs of the child.
Advocacy in Special Education as a Person of Color - In this workshop, families had the opportunity to increase their knowledge about how the special education or individual education process works.
"Today was beautiful! Thank you for all of your hard work, the gathering, food, the cultural elements, and holding a space for Black families! "
The leaders behind the Community Empowerment Project
Kausha's passion and knowledge of basketball has fueled her abilities to navigate systems and help families access services: "A block here, a pass there will never get in my way. This community is my team and I always approach the game with a winning attitude built on compassion, strength and encouragement. I am passionate about being able to bring conferences and trainings to this community so they will be empowered to be seen and heard."
Family Navigator, Project Leadership Graduate
"One of the things I enjoy the most in life is helping others. Nothing can beat the feeling after putting a smile and confidence on a face. That's what we do at FRN and that’s why I had chosen to work here. I also love spending time with my family, traveling, meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures."
What's next for the Community Empowerment Project?
We're helping change the narrative by providing culturally relevant resources, information, tips and strategies that will help children in the Black community get better access to the services they need.
In the era of COVID, we will continue to plan online trainings and support groups to focus on equitable access for Black families on a variety of topics: school district, regional center, and medical therapies:
- Community Empowerment Conference - February 2021
- Black Parents Raising Exceptional People (BPREP) Support Group
- Navigating Transition from Pediatric to Adult Care Training (addressing unique challenges for Black kids with medical complexity)
- Tips for Black Families on Getting Services for Children or Young Adult Training
- Parent Café with a focus on Black families (parents and caregivers talk about the challenges and victories of raising a family)
"I used it to buy clothes and food. I used the cash I would have had to spend it on other items for other needs. Very much appreciated."
-Jacquelyn, Mini-grant recipient
Dollars and Cents
This was a year of funders and donors stepping up to go beyond. With a history of strong government contracts, we focused on expanding support from foundations, corporations and individuals. This year, donations increased by 76%, fueling over $6000 in mini-grants for struggling families. Grant funding increased by 24%, filling gaps in services and enabling us to hire a new staff member and transition a number of part-time staff to full-time. With a critical SBA loan, we were able to weather COVID-related delays in funding, ending the year with a balanced budget.
Looking forward to next year:
"Thank you so much for the diapers, wipes and sanitizers. You don't understand how happy I am to see all these items. It's been super challenging finding wipes and sanitizers. Diapers and wipes alone are so costly. Truly appreciate you reaching out and gifting us with all of these! Thank you!!
Thanks to our generous supporters:
"Thank you very much, now that I stopped working because of my children's school and I have to be present while distance learning, these items would help my family."
Want to help? Join us!
By making a donation or telling someone about our services, you're helping to support everything we do for families of children with disabilities: diapers and wipes drives, the Community Empowerment Project and critical one-on-one support.