A story from Health & Education Fund Impact Partner The Next Door.
Every month since November 2018, Latino parents of children zero to eight-years-old gather in The Dalles to discuss health and education issues and develop their leadership skills. They’re brought together by Liliana Bello, a Community Health Worker at The Next Door. Liliana wants to hear about the barriers these parents face, meet their needs and help them become advocates for their children and families.
Having been active in her community for the last fifteen years, Liliana knows how to meet Latino parents where they already are. She visited schools to recruit parents for this coalition. Twelve parents attended the first session. Through word of mouth, the coalition has grown to 17 participants. The Next Door gives parents $15 per meeting and provides child care with constructive activities, including art, games and walks around the building. These supports allow parents to attend consistently.
At the first coalition meeting, Liliana asked parents to voice their concerns about education and healthcare. A few of the concerns they listed: lack of communication between schools and parents, lack of bilingual staff at schools, discrimination against Hispanic children, unfair punishments, unhealthy cafeteria food, dangerous parking lots, bullying, uncertainty about how to help their children with mental illness, teachers’ ignorance of students with disabilities’ needs, healthcare providers’ discrimination against patients on the Oregon Health Plan and poor translation during healthcare visits.
Parents’ concerns guide the agenda for each coalition meeting. Liliana invites guests to speak on topics of interest. So far, guests have spoken about food and nutrition, child care provider requirements and parents’ rights, child development and Head Start, and how to spot and respond to child abuse. In June, parents will learn how to support children with depression.
One of the coalitions’ most fruitful visits was from North Wasco County School District’s superintendent and the director of their migrant education program. They listened to parents’ concerns about their children’s education and told parents who they can contact in specific situations. They also encouraged the parents to consider running for an open school board seat. Currently, no Latino or bilingual representatives serve on North Wasco County School District’s board, which means Latino students needs are not heard or represented. The director of the migrant education program later followed up with an invitation to a day-and-a-half long symposium and information about applying for a school board position. Fifteen people attended the symposium; nine of them were from The Next Door’s coalition!
One parent from the coalition already sits on a local board – the One Community Health board of directors. Thanks to the coalition’s encouragement, more parents have expressed interest in leadership positions, including on the school board, Head Start’s board of directors and policy council. The coalition participants feel supported by one another, often calling each other between meetings. They wish each meeting lasted longer, because they have so much to talk about.
Northwest Health Foundation looks forward to finding out what these parents do next!