Lead Forward.

Belong. Celebrate. Advocate.

2023 Annual Report


We know what it's like to feel like you don't belong

At FRN, every staff and board member has a family member with a special need, medical condition or delay.

We pair intensive support with unique opportunities to forge meaningful connections with other families. Support groups, community events, workshops — we are creating a vibrant community for all of our families.

Together, we’re helping our children, supporting each other, and improving the systems around us.

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Bringing people together

We’re providing critical spaces to grow skills while fostering a supportive community through support groups and other in-person events. We bring families together to find new friends, allies and build the supportive relationships that we all need to thrive.

Featured event: Golden Village Conference

For Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean Families an in-person convening on special education.

  • 89 people learned how to advocate for special education services
  • 17+ agencies hosted an onsite Resource Fair
  • Attendees learned together and enjoyed cultural presentations

“很感动,有这么多亚裔服务的资源给特殊需求人群 - I am very touched that there are so many Asian service resources for people with special needs.”

“(I liked the) different social /Instructional classes for my special needs children and I am (now) aware of the services available. Bottom line, I no longer feel so isolated.”


Featured support group: Quali-tea Chai Chat

For Arabic moms, this group meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month (with the exception of a Ramadan or other holidays)

  • 9 in-person convenings in 2023

  • 242 people participated

  • Includes childcare, peer support and topics like ‘How to survive and thrive as a parent of a child with a disability’ or ‘Navigating the IHSS process’

“I’m very pleased to have you be part of my network. It’s so helpful to share experiences, information and resources with the parents of my Arab community. As a next step, I would like to educate myself more to advocate for my son and help other parents.” - Reem

“I am the mother of a 14 year old Autistic child. Since attending my first meeting, I have not skipped once. I learn something new each time. I got help with my son’s IEP, speech resources and a lot of info that was helpful for me and my family. I look forward to learning more about new programs, especially in the area of leadership.” - Hasna

“Once as a parent I found myself walking into the world of special needs, confused and depressed, and then I found FRN. They supported my journey with my disabled child. At first you are often scared, but then when you get all the information, resources, supports you need it and it can be such a relief. I learned a lot of information and how I could communicate with Arab parents who shared the same experiences. You can’t imagine how much that helped.” - Sahar

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Having fun together

Moments of celebration bring joy to families who are busy caring for and advocating for their children. FRN trainings and events are both informative and fun. We foster an environment full of laughter and delight.

Featured event: Family Strengthening & Empowerment Conference

Bringing together Black families for training, support and celebration

  • 120 attendees identifying as Black, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian and White
  • Featuring Afrika We Dance, an ensemble who uplift culture through storytelling and African dance to create happy spaces
  • Planned by a collective of families

“I appreciate Family Resource Navigators for holding space for families who identify as Black.”

“The conference was great! Appreciated the opportunity to gather in person.”

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Training & coaching on systems change

We share information, knowledge and experiences so that families can navigate systems effectively and equitably.

Featured program: Community Navigator program

Funded by the Department of Developmental Services

We’re assisting babies, children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. We provide services for basic, developmental, medical and educational needs.

  • 2,248 conversations with families
  • 141 families served (from toddlers up to age 52)
  • 269 referrals to connect to services:


Featured advocate: Yaneth

Family Navigator & mom to 28 year-old Ernesto

Many of the Spanish-speaking families I work with feel nervous about applying for services because they don’t speak English or were denied once before. By supporting them, I teach them about the process and how to take the next steps — both now and in the future.

For example, a family may call who needs help applying for SSI (Supplemental Security Income). It’s a federal program that can help families receive additional income for their young children or adults with disabilities.

Together, we’ll call the Agency and get an appointment. I’ll attend the interviews to make sure they get their questions answered and help them qualify for the services. This is important because answering a question that you don’t understand can lead to a denial of services.

I help other parents gain confidence so they can advocate for themselves and their children.

I get to be the light in someone’s dark moment when they don’t know who else to call. I know what that’s like because when I’m not working, I’m caring for my son Ernesto who is 28.

I was 17 when he was born. During his birth, he experienced a lack of oxygen that affected his brain. He started having seizures and the doctors told me he wouldn’t live longer than two years. Everyday felt like it might be his last.

Ernesto defied all odds. Today, he is a very happy and handsome young man who likes to be around familiar voices. If I whistle at him, he brightens the room with his smile. Every day, he likes to go out on a ride in his adaptive van.

FRN helped me learn how to get services for Ernesto for his needs: personal care assistance, transportation, financial and educational.

With trusted caregivers and services at home, I am able to work at FRN. Now, I use the experience I have from being his mother to help others.

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Bringing people together

Belonging to a community is an essential part of thriving as a family with disabilities. This year, we will continue to host and expand our support groups, workshops and conferences to bring hundreds of people together in-person this year.

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A New Way of Teaching Advocacy

Founded in anti-oppression, we’re developing a leadership training program that is authentic to the next generation of advocates who reflect the deep ethnic and cultural diversity of the East Bay.

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Navigation Through MediCal

Through a contract with Kaiser, we’re leveraging MediCal funding to provide navigation services to manage the complex medical needs of children. Our staff provide support in overcoming systemic barriers by improving access to assistance, housing and other medical services that impact the health of an entire family.

Impact in 2023

Helping families get the services they need

  • 2339 families assisted
  • 1138 families provided with navigation

Advocates and leaders make a difference

  • 1 leadership group for Black families and professionals
  • 12 Black leaders trained
  • 10 sessions a year

Support groups bring families together

  • 4 support groups

  • 40 sessions each year

  • 148 participants

Playgroups provide children and families with an opportunity to socialize and learn

  • 6 playgroups a year

  • 25 participants per playgroup, on average

  • 110 playgroup participants

Giveaways meet the needs of our community

  • 141 school backpacks

  • 120 holiday toys

Workshops help families & professionals build skills

  • 22 Workshops & 2 large conferences
  • 462 Parents & professionals trained
  • 1 Series on ‘Unpacking Oppression’ trained 17 professionals/family members
  • 209 conference attendees

An advocate who inspires our work

Feda Almaliti

A fierce advocate, Feda was a force of nature – a funny, irreverent, take-no-prisoners gal who advocated for children with Autism. An FRN board member and a really good friend, we lost Feda and her son Mohammed to a house fire.

When her son was a baby, she knew something was wrong. It took years to get a diagnosis and multiple appeals, but she finally got her insurance company to provide services for her boy.

She didn’t stop there and was part of a coalition that passed California’s SB 946 bill. The bill requires insurance companies to cover treatments for Autism. Feda was an example of someone who used her advocacy to help change systems for the better so that others would not have to go through what she did.

Feda fiercely believed that parents’ voices needed to be heard at all levels of policy making – and advised those who wanted to lead – to do epic SH#$.

“The parent going up against the largest health care provider in California. It is a David and Goliath story”  - Feda Almaliti

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“We will equip parents and caregivers with essential advocacy skills and reach out to Black and brown families to ensure their voices are heard. Using role-playing and simulations, we’ll deepen understanding and practical skills in a supportive community. With childcare and meals, we will make this a transformative experience that will educate and empower participants to become effective advocates and change-makers.”

-Natalie Thoreson

Coming soon in 2024!

Lead Forward Training: A New Approach to Advocacy

We’re continuing Feda’s legacy with a new systems change training for parents and families in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

  • 12-week curriculum that incorporates experiential learning techniques to introduce foundational concepts of advocacy
  • Enhances communication skills through role-playing and practicing leveraging identities for change
  • Participants will workshop an interpersonal advocacy action on a local issue
  • Post-training mentorship support for participants

The ‘Lead Forward’ series will equip parents and caregivers of children with disabilities with essential advocacy skills and specifically reach out to underrepresented populations — particularly Black and brown families — to ensure voices are heard and needs are addressed.

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Growth is about meeting the needs of our community

Each year, we're able to grow and serve more families by diversifying our funding streams. From individual donors to government funding to private foundations, we're proud to be able to serve children, youth and adults at all ages.

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  • Includes multi-year contracts
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Thanks to our funders & supporters

We are thrilled to have the collaboration of private and public funders and individual donors who enable us to serve people with disabilities, delays or medical needs of all ages.

A big thank you to Alameda County Food Bank, Alameda County Public Health, California Department of Developmental Services, California Department of Education, Heising Simons Family Lead, and Magic Cabinet.


Thanks to our board members

Sujatha Ranganathan, Chair - Education Data Specialist

Cheri Hanataka, Treasurer - Attorney

James Ricks, Secretary - Retired


Rachida Ahmad BCBA - Behaviorist

Steve Allie - Director, System's Engineering

Jan Grossman - Advocate, retired

Sumita Kalra - Physician

Anu Singh, PhD - Marriage and Family Therapist

Daniel Vasquez - Case Manager