Co-authored by:
Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz CortezEarly Learning Program Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund

As representatives of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), we are honored to once again be invited to present at the annual Head Start California Conference. The title of the presentation is, “¡Sí, Se Puede! Working Collectively to Increase Latinx Family Leadership through Abriendo Puertas in the Mission District of San Francisco.”  

For 2021, we are excited that MPN partner Mission Neighborhood Centers (MNC) Head Start parent and Abriendo Puertas facilitator Maria Cristina Ortega (photo) will be joining us as a co-presenter. Attendees of the presentation will learn about MPN’s Abriendo Puertas collective strategy, plus Maria Cristina’s experience as a Head Start parent contributing to the impact of Abriendo Puertas in the Mission. 

The Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum — the first evidence-based program developed by and for Latinx parents with children ages 0-5 — has proven to be the perfect fit for our community in the Mission. The 15+ partners of the MPN community anti-poverty education initiative work collectively to improve school readiness. A subset of partners collaborates to increase the access of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors for our families. 

MPN developed the Abriendo Puertas strategy to eliminate organizational silos and to work together to achieve community-level goals of increasing access to the program. MPN supports this collaboration by providing funding to partners to provide the Abriendo Puertas program; facilitator training for staff and parents; job opportunities for parents who are now facilitating the program; the collection and analysis of data that tells the collective story; and professional development opportunities through the Professional Learning Community, where facilitators come together to share best practices, plus work on their personal growth and transformation. 

The MNC Early Head Start/Head Start Program employs a two-generation strategy that offers Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors to support parents in developing their leadership and advocacy skills so that they become leaders in their homes and communities. The story of Maria Cristina is an example of how these community programs are positively impacting lives. 

Maria Cristina emigrated from Guatemala to the United States 11 years ago to pursue better opportunities and help provide for her parents and siblings, who stayed in her homeland. When she had her first child, Maria Cristina learned about MNC’s Early Head Start Home Visiting program. Enrolling her daughter in that program, Maria Cristina gave her daughter the opportunity to be in a learning environment that is culturally relevant and fostered her home language of Spanish. Having already established a relationship with MNC’s Head Start program, Maria Cristina’s son was able to follow in his big sister’s footsteps. With the peace of mind that both her children were receiving high-quality care, Maria Cristina focused on her passion for education and personal/professional growth.  

Maria Cristina enrolled in MNC’s Abriendo Puertas parenting program, and it propelled her to accomplish her goals. The child development topics and focus on family well-being equipped her with the tools to support her children with their transition to kinder and beyond.
Maria Cristina shares:

“I learned how to enjoy my children more, spend quality time with them, respect their time and motivate them through educational games. As a mother, I discovered internally how to improve my interactions with my children. I learned how to heal my wounds from my negative childhood experiences and the appropriate steps to advocate for myself. Now, I feel like I’ve learned how to be an understanding mother, use reciprocal communication and help my children navigate the educational system with my support. I can now be an advocate for myself and my family and speak up when my motherly intuitions kick in to alert me that my rights, the rights of my family and community are being violated.” 

Throughout the years, Maria Cristina’s passion for education continues to be her North Star. She has been able to get her GED; infant-toddler massage certification; prenatal and postpartum doula certification; lactation consultant certification; culinary training; yoga instructor certification; and Abriendo Puertas’ facilitator certification. As a Wellness Counselor for Homeless Prenatal Program, she is a pillar in the community: She is now helping other parents find the path to becoming leaders in their home and community. Maria Cristina is grateful for the opportunities that she receives as a Head Start parent, saying, “I have achieved many goals in my life and have grown professionally thanks to all of the support Head Start has given me.”

This year, MPN is taking additional steps to deepen the Abriendo Puertas work by growing the number of parent facilitators in the community. When parents graduate from Abriendo Puertas, they are equipped with the parental knowledge, tools, and confidence to advocate for their child’s needs and support their learning. Post-graduation, it is natural that parents are looking for opportunities where they can practice their new skill sets. For many, the Abriendo Puertas facilitator training is the next step in their personal growth and transformation.  

We are thrilled to partner with parents this year to continue to support their professional growth and development.

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Co-authored by:
Associate Director Liz Cortez
Early Learning Program Manager Ada Freund

First 5 California is this week convening early-childhood stakeholders from across the state for the 2020 Child Health, Education, and Care Summit. The summit’s theme, “Equity in Action: Elevating Children, Families, and California’s Workforce,” will focus on sharing best practices around building partnerships and promoting collective impact in the early care and education field, as a means to optimally benefiting young children and their families

Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) will be presenting and sharing our Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors collective impact work around partnering with parents and community organizations to positively impact kinder-readiness outcomes in San Francisco’s Mission District. 

MPN is an equity initiative: Our 15+ partners are together serving the highest-needs children in our community. Through MPN — a collective impact approach comprising many partner organizations — we are creating positive outcomes for our children, youth and families via evidence-based programming and leadership development that empowers our community to advocate for the needs of both their families and the Mission. In collaboration with Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors National and various local organizations, many of which are part of First 5 San Francisco’s Family Resource Center initiative, we are weaving a strong social fabric to support and nurture our community. This translates to building generational wealth, while simultaneously laying pathways for academic success along a prenatal-to-college continuum. Through culturally relevant family engagement, critical services, and leadership development and advocacy, we are strengthening our community from the ground up, with an inherent piece of our work being that families are partners in the process. 

Organizations such as Abriendo Puertas have been critical in this process. Abriendo Puertas’ mission is to “support parents in their roles as family leader and as their child’s first and most influential teacher in a home that is their child’s first school” aligns with the goals of MPN. This two-generation approach builds parent leadership skills and knowledge to promote family well-being and positive education outcomes for children. Abriendo Puertas is the nation’s first evidence-based comprehensive training program developed by and for Latino parents with children ages 0-5.

The Abriendo Puertas institute and comprehensive curriculum has helped us develop the structure and resources to inform, guide and inspire our community to take ownership of our school-readiness efforts. Our facilitators, which includes parents, empower families to learn about healthy child development, school readiness, and advocacy.

In 2017, MPN began growing the number of organizations that offer Abriendo Puertas; the catalyst was the creation of an Abriendo Puertas professional learning community to double the number of families who access the program. Since that time, we have watched in awe as partnering organizations have exponentially implemented robust programming around Abriendo Puertas. Working together to increase access has been a successful collective effort: MPN has been able to reach more and more families every year. (Read brief for more information about our PLC model). 

Our success in working together to break down organizational silos is due in large part to our commitment to a collective impact approach that includes: a common agenda; collecting data and consistently measuring results; coordinating mutually reinforcing activities; open and continuous communication; and, most importantly, partnering with families in an authentic way. Backbone staff support the aforementioned efforts.

In our community, the graduating families of Abriendo Puertas are interested in advocacy and leadership opportunities. As part of our partner collective work, MPN is building a pathway by connecting parents to additional opportunities after they finish a series. The Abriendo Puertas curriculum is the ideal fit for our community because it encourages parents to advocate for what they need. Take the case of parent facilitator Albertina, who shared the following: “The program teaches us how to advocate for our children … helping to open doors for school success.”  

Ultimately, MPN’s goal is that Latino families are decision-makers in the institutions and political systems that affect their lives. Abriendo Puertas is the vehicle to making that a reality.

We are breaking cycles, through relationships, sustained effort, and access to information and resources. Families are partners in being part of the solution. Starting with success in the home environment and the early years — and changing the systems that do not work well for our community — families are creating a healthy foundation and ongoing progress to set themselves on track for lifelong success.

This is the collective work of MPN — and our promise to the next generation.


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Co-authored by:
Associate Director Liz Cortez
Early Learning Program Manager Ada Freund
Mission Promise Neighborhood, San Francisco

Early/Head Start programs promote school readiness of young children (0-5) from low-income families by supporting the development of the whole child. These vital programs create a positive environment to support the growth of children via a diverse range of services, which include early learning, health and family well-being. Program staff actively engage families, using a variety of tailored parenting curricula, around children’s learning and development. 

The Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum — the first evidence-based program developed for and by Latinx parents with children ages 0-5 — has proven to be the perfect fit for our community in the Mission District of San Francisco. The 15+ partners of the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) community anti-poverty education initiative work collectively to increase the access of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors for our families. 

One such community-based organization is MPN partner Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc. (MNC) Early/Head Start Program, which has offered its families the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum for over a decade. In that time, MNC has successfully strengthened families by building on their parental knowledge, skills and confidence. Through this work, MNC has partnered with parents to support their leadership development in being their child’s first and most important teacher. The comprehensive Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum offers additional benefits to families, such as a focus on well-being, advocacy skills and building relationships with peers. 

Following are the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors 10 themed sessions:

  1. I am my child’s first teacher; our home, my child’s first school
  2. My child’s growth and development
  3. The power of words
  4. Healthy Body/Healthy Mind, Part 1: Nutrition and Physical Activity
  5. Healthy Body/Healthy Mind, Part 2: Social-Emotional Well-being
  6. My child, media and technology
  7. Count with me
  8. Let’s get ready for school
  9. Champions for our children’s future
  10. Yes, we can! Graduation

Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is built on the “popular education” model, which focuses on active engagement from participants and the incorporation of their experiences into the learning process. Popular education teaches that everyone has something to contribute to the learning process, and increases parents’ confidence to play an active role in supporting their children’s learning and development.

The Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum has demonstrated positive impact on the families that have participated in our community. Parent facilitator Albertina recently shared: “The program teaches us how to advocate for our children … helping to open doors for school success.” (Watch this inspiring two-minute video featuring three MPN parent stories).

At MNC, teachers, family support staff and parents partner to ensure that children receive high-quality early care and education, and that parents garner the knowledge and skills to support their children’s learning and development. By inspiring parents to be a part of the learning process through the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors curriculum, Mission Promise Neighborhood is ensuring that our community’s children are healthy, ready for school and on track for lifelong success.


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Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) works daily to provide wraparound services to strengthen families.

Fernanda’s story showcases this success.

Her mother renewed her Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), filing her taxes. The family was connected to low-cost internet. She obtained an internship as a medical administrative assistant at an MPN partner organization.

The story starts with an early learning training given at MPN early learning partner organization, Felton Family Developmental Center. Mother Sandra (photo, fourth left) and her 19-year-old daughter Fernanda (photo, third left), were recruited to attend the Abriendo Puertas parent leadership training, co-facilitated by MPN Family Success Coaches Ana Avilez and Dannhae Herrera Wilson, along with Child Development/ Early Learning Specialist Magali Valdes-Robles of Felton. Fernanda lives with her mother, father and two siblings, including her five-year-old little sister.

Fernanda wanted to attend the Abriendo Puertas training to help her mother get her little sister off to the best possible start. Abriendo Puertas supports parents in their roles as their child’s first, and most influential teacher, and has been a contributing factor — along with Felton’s high-quality early care and education services — in the improvements we’ve seen in the children’s developmental assessment scores and the percentage of the parents reading to their children. (Blog).

Fernanda, a native of San Francisco’s Excelsior District, was a waitress at the time, even though she had graduated from a medical administrative assistant training program at Mission Language and Vocational School in 2018. She was unable to begin her career as a medical assistant because she could not garner an internship that would give her the 160 hours she needed to begin her career.

Upon hearing this, Avilez immediately reached out to MPN partner Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) — and Fernanda had an interview with this community-based organization two days later. A couple of days after that successful interview, Fernanda started training and interning at MNHC. At the same time, Fernanda’s mother was connected to financial capacity-building services at MEDA, including ITIN renewal, tax filing and low-cost internet.

We are pleased to share that MNHC has now hired Fernanda as an employee.

This success story is a prime example of how our partners come together to provide a wraparound, two-generation approach to working with families and their children, and the persistence and desire to achieve that exists within our community.

MPN is proud to be part of Fernanda and her family’s success story.

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Co-authored by:
Associate Director Liz Cortez, Mission Promise Neighborhood
Early Learning Program Manager Ada Alvarado Freund, Mission Promise Neighborhood

Abriendo Puertas Professional Learning Community includes the following partners:
Felton Institute
Good Samaritan Family Resource Center
Homeless Prenatal Program
Mission Neighborhood Centers
San Francisco Unified School District – Early Education Department
Support for Families

Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors’ mission is to “support parents in their roles as family leader and as their child’s first and most influential teacher in a home that is their child’s first school.” This two-generation approach builds parent leadership skills and knowledge to promote family well-being and positive education outcomes for children. It is the nation’s first evidence-based comprehensive training program developed by and for Latino parents with children ages 0-5.

Since starting in 2007, Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors has trained over 1,800 facilitators in more than 500 organizations, impacting over 80,000 parents/families across the country. The curriculum focuses on early childhood development, early literacy, health, social-emotional well-being, the use of media and technology, numeracy, school preparation and parent advocacy. In 2012, University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development identified that participants had made remarkable growth across all areas of assessment. In the analysis, the largest effects were found in the following areas: school preparation; health development; parenting; and advocacy.

Within the Mission District of San Francisco, a collective of Latino family-serving organizations that are part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood initiative (MPN) — and historically part of First 5 San Francisco’s Family Resource Center initiative — are working together to increase the number of families that access Abriendo Puertas at the neighborhood level.

MPN serves as a backbone organization that supports the collaborative efforts of partner organizations within the Mission District, all working to improve school readiness outcomes and support families. The population of Latinos in the Mission District is approximately 21,000 with 1,700 children ages 0-5. Latino families in the Mission have a median income of $25,000, compared to the San Francisco household median of $78,000.

After learning that turnover of Abriendo Puertas facilitators is a real challenge within our partner network, MPN and partner First 5 San Francisco hosted a community training to rebuild the capacity of these organizations. We also wanted to grow the number of organizations offering Abriendo Puertas. In early 2017, 14 facilitators, representing six organizations, participated in the training provided by Abriendo Puertas. We realized that to maintain the momentum and desire to offer more sessions to families, a one-time training was not going to be enough. So we created a professional learning community and started meeting every two months to share best practices and support each other in growing the work.

The group identified a few results and has mostly focused their collective work on two of them:

  1. More families have access to Abriendo Puertas in the Mission District and San Francisco.
  2. Families feel connected to their Abriendo Puertas family after the series.

Our collective impact
MPN serves as a backbone organization in many ways, including: coordinating the trainings for existing and new facilitators in the community; facilitating the professional learning community for facilitators; and collecting and analyzing the data from various partners to tell a collective story. We have been able to increase the number of organizations offering Abriendo Puertas by 133 percent (from three in 2016 to seven in 2017) and all of these organizations participate in the bimonthly professional learning community to share data and tell a collective story for the community. Our goals for achieving communitywide impact include breaking organizational silos to work together to ensure that more families are accessing Abriendo Puertas, and that when families participate they stay connected to other families and build a community of support.

By the numbers:

  • 133 percent increase in organizations offering Abriendo Puertas while adding 14 new facilitators.
  • 100 percent of organizations offering Abriendo Puertas are participating in the Professional Learning Community and sharing data to tell a collective story.
  • 159 percent increase in Abriendo Puertas participation.

Building the professional learning community
Bringing people together to work on a common result takes coordination support from a lead organization; as such, we work to build relationships and develop trust. This helps with keeping a group engaged over time. Coordination support is critical to the planning of the meetings, the follow up on commitments and the collection of data to tell the collective story. People are busy and therefore appreciate effective meetings: We use the Results-Based Facilitation framework for planning and running our meetings, thereby ensuring that we are all clear on why we are coming together and what the next steps will be. We are also creative in our approach to communicating across the group. In addition to holding meetings every two-months for one-and-a-half hours — complemented by one-on-one check-ins — we stay connected via a Facebook group page. We ensure that all of our communication is consistently and constantly messaging the vision and agreements for scaling this work.

The MPN Abriendo Puertas learning community includes 100 percent of the organizations in the community that offer Abriendo Puertas, and the facilitators collectively developed group results or goals and how they will measure progress. At this moment, the data that is shared includes the number of participants and the number/percent that graduate from a series. In addition to having a collective goal of increasing the number of participants, the professional learning community is a space for facilitators to support each other and share best practices. We have seen organizations pair up to co-facilitate sessions and have also seen newer facilitators learning from more-seasoned facilitators. The group has developed a year-round community calendar that informs families of where a series is being offered across organizations.

Organizations in our community have a high level of staff turnover, making it difficult to stay aligned to reach our goals. In addition, facilitators have multiple demands on their time and therefore joining meetings outside of their own organization is often challenging. We find it key that supervisors — and the leadership of each organization which is participating — is fully supportive of the facilitators that attend the meetings and understand the goals of the group.

Results of working together
Since working together to increase capacity in facilitators and new organizations offering Abriendo Puertas in early 2017 and the creation of the professional learning community, we have seen a year-by-year increase in the amount of participants that are engaging in the program. As seen in Figure 1, we have seen participation increase by 159 percent since the beginning of 2017.

In addition to engaging in the program, we want participants to feel connected to their Abriendo Puertas family after they graduate, so we hosted our first “Fiesta Comunitaria Abriendo Puertas” in September of 2018. There were 289 family members who came out to celebrate family leadership and promote social connection among families. The professional learning community conducted a post-event survey to gather feedback from families. One parent shared, “I learned that the Abriendo Puertas program is more than a parenting program …  it is also a movement at the national level.”

One story: Olga, Abriendo Puertas facilitator and professional learning community member
What is it like being part of this learning community? How have you felt supported as a first-time facilitator and the only one offering it through your organization?

“The provider learning group meetings have been really useful because they give me the opportunity to keep connected to providers of other organizations, to know what they are doing in the community, the classes they are planning to offer in the future and we can discuss relevant topics related to Abriendo Puertas and the scaling of the work citywide.

“Since it was the first time that I facilitated — and also the first time that our agency implemented this program — it would have been helpful to have had more staff trained within our agency. Being a part of the professional learning community was supportive and crucial, since any questions that I had, they were there to answer and, more importantly, to connect me with a facilitator from another agency that co-facilitated a series with me.”

Next Steps to Deepen our Work
Focusing on the pre-/post-assessment
We have learned that organizations use the participant pre- and post-assessment in different ways, and some not at all. Partner organizations have found the assessment too long, so participants find it difficult to answer. Some organizations have created their own pre- and post-assessment questions, while others have broken down the questions into separate pre- and post-assessments to give to participants by session. For example, one partner uses creative ways of capturing the increase in knowledge, using a learning tree with each leaf documenting a participant’s thoughts and learnings after a session. Not having the same pre- and post-assessment data across organizations has limited the kind of analysis that we can do. We will continue to find ways of aligning our assessments to demonstrate our collective story and impact.

Participation versus graduation
In addition to scaling so that more families access Abriendo Puertas, we want more families to complete all of the session, and at least enough sessions to graduate. In 2019, some partners will be focusing on graduating more families by developing more intentional strategies for retention and engagement of participants. We want all families to feel recognized for participating and we will promote certificates for participation and certificates for graduation.

Linkage to advocacy and leadership development opportunities after the series
We want to follow up with families after they have graduated to see how they are doing with their goal-setting and how we can support their advocacy and leadership goals. We have learned that some families are starting to take on advocacy and leadership roles within their schools and in their community. We want to document and celebrate how they are getting involved and putting their advocacy skills to practice.

We will continue to build the facilitator capacity in our community by offering additional trainings for our partners. This will allow us to continue to scale the work in the Mission District, and across San Francisco. Working collectively in a professional learning community allows us to support each other while trying to achieve these big goals of ensuring that more families participate and graduate from Abriendo Puertas, plus that they feel connected to their Abriendo Puertas family after they graduate.

About Mission Promise Neighborhood

The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working, and attending school in the Mission District. MPN partners provide a network of support services to help families achieve economic stability and the tools needed to support their children’s academic achievement, creating a brighter future for the whole Mission community.


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