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Estudiantes y familias de San Francisco han contado por 10 años con una herramienta de apoyo económico que hace más posible el sueño de hacer una carrera universitaria: el programa Kindergarten to College (K2C) de la Oficina de Empoderamiento Financiero de la Ciudad y Condado de San Francisco.

La iniciativa permite a las familias tener una cuenta de ahorros que en el futuro ayudará con los costos de estudios universitarios de cada hijo. 

“Este es un programa universal que está abierto a todos los estudiantes del Distrito Escolar Unificado de San Francisco (SFUSD) sin importar estatus migratorio”, dice Elisa Rodríguez, Community Engagement Specialist del programa K2C. “Y además abrimos las cuentas automáticamente, los padres no tienen que hacer, sólo reciben una carta de bienvenida. No hay barreras”.

El programa cumple 10 años este 2022. Durante ese tiempo ha abierto más de 49,000 cuentas con más de $11 millones de dólares ahorrados para los estudiantes, según datos compartidos por K2C. 

El dinero ahorrado no sólo proviene del bolsillo de madres y padres. El programa también contribuye con una serie de incentivos, que empiezan desde que se abre la cuenta cuando la Ciudad hace un depósito inicial de $50 dólares. En este año de celebración del décimo aniversario,  K2C da un incentivo de $10 dólares por cada aportación, hasta diez veces, para un total de $100 dólares. (Conozca los incentivos).

“Queremos crear esta conciencia sobre la universidad y comenzar a ahorrar temprano para que puedan tener una garantía”, dice Rodríguez. “Tal vez no ayude a cubrir el costo total de una matrícula, pero sí podría ayudar a mitigar parte del costo”.

De acuerdo con Rodríguez, estudios han revelado que los estudiantes que conocen la existencia de una cuenta de ahorros a su nombre tienen más posibilidades de asistir a la universidad que aquellos que no la tienen. 

La Oficina de Empoderamiento Financiero de la Ciudad y Condado de San Francisco también ofrece a los padres talleres educativos y  sesiones con guías financieros. 

Esfuerzo comunitarioPese al fácil acceso y los incentivos,  K2C enfrenta desafíos dentro de algunas comunidades de inmigrantes ya que ciertas barreras culturales impiden que las familias aprovechen el programa en su totalidad. Es aquí como organizaciones como Comunidad Promesa de la Mission (MPN), Mission Graduates y Parents For Public Schools (PPS) entran a jugar un papel importante gracias a su cercanía con las familias de los estudiantes. Los guías de éxito familiar de MPN, por ejemplo, asisten a padres con la gestión de las cuentas y responden a las dudas que tengan, además de servir de intérpretes. 

“La comunidad ya tiene confianza en estas organizaciones porque han trabajado con los padres por muchos años”, dice Rodríguez.

“Tratamos de eliminar las barreras para las familias al abrir las cuentas de ahorro automáticamente sin que los padres tengan que hacerlo. Sólo tienen que registrarse en línea para tener acceso a sus cuentas y nuestro programa envía carta de bienvenida a todas las familias nuevas”.

La guía de las organizaciones comunitarias se multiplica cuando los padres que recibieron su asistencia después tienen el conocimiento para ayudar a familias recién llegadas a San Francisco o con hijos que apenas ingresan a la vida escolar. 

“Es importante  informar sobre esa cuenta para que ellos [los padres] en el futuro tengan un ahorrito para sus hijos”, dice Ana Chay, una madre con dos hijos en escuelas del Distrito Escolar de San Francisco. “Los incentivos los veo cuando miro mi cuenta. K2C es algo importante para mí porque me gustaría que mis hijos estudien y se gradúen en lo que quieran, para que tengan un buen trabajo y ganen bien”.  

El deseo de Ana es el mismo que han tenido las familias latinas por generaciones. Un hijo en la universidad es una recompensa y un ejemplo de prosperidad familiar.

“Desde que comencé a trabajar para MPN, siempre me ha sorprendido la esperanza y la pasión que tienen las familias de nuestra comunidad para que sus hijos tengan la educación adecuada para enfrentar los desafíos del futuro”, dice Luis Ostolaza, guía de éxito familiar de MPN. “Es por eso que nuestro equipo y nuestros socios aceptan nuestra misión de conectar a las familias con todas las herramientas que necesitan para tener éxito en la vida. Kindergarten to College (K2C) es una de esas herramientas en las que tenemos que informar a nuestra comunidad. Esto me da mucha alegría y estoy muy contento de poder aportar lo que sea necesario para hacer realidad sus sueños”.

Kindergarten to College: A Decade of Planting Seeds to Grow College Dreams

San Francisco students are lucky to be offered financial support toward their dreams of a college education via Kindergarten to College (K2C), a program from the City’s Office of Financial Empowerment. This initiative offers families a savings account to help with the future costs of university studies for their children.

“This is a universal program that is open to all San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) students, regardless of immigration status,” says Elisa Rodríguez, Community Engagement Specialist for the K2C program. “We try to remove barriers for families by opening savings accounts automatically without parents having to do so. They just need to register online to access their accounts and our program sends a welcome letter to all new families.”

The program turns 10 in 2022. During that time, K2C has opened more than 49,000 accounts with more than $11 million in savings for students.

The money saved does not come only from the pockets of mothers and fathers. The program also contributes a number of incentives (see them here), which start from the moment the account is opened with the City’s initial $50 deposit. To celebrate its tenth anniversary, K2C is giving an incentive of $10 for each contribution, up to ten times, for a total of $100 dollars.

“We want to create awareness about college and the need to start saving early so families have collateral,” Rodríguez says. “It may not help cover the full cost of tuition, but it helps mitigate some of the costs.”

According to Rodriguez, studies have shown that students who have a savings account in their name are more likely to attend college than those who do not.

The San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment also offers educational workshops and financial guidance sessions for parents.

Community effortDespite easy access and a bonus of incentives, K2C faces challenges within immigrant communities, as cultural barriers prevent families from taking full advantage of the program. That is why organizations such as Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN), Mission Graduates and Parents For Public Schools (PPS) play an important role, leveraging existing relationships with students and their parents. For example, MPN Family Success Coaches afford parents culturally relevant assistance around online account access, plus answer any questions they may have about how the K2C program works.

“The community already trusts these organizations because they have worked with parents for many years,” says Rodríguez. “It’s hard to break down certain barriers, but it helps to have partners in the community to help break down those obstacles.”

Guidance from community organizations is multiplied when parents who received their assistance have the knowledge to help families who are new to SFUSD or with children who are just entering the school system.

“It’s important to provide information about accounts so in the future parents have a little bit of savings for their children,” says Ana Chay, a devoted mother of two children in SFUSD schools. “I see the incentives when I look at my account. K2C is important to me because I would like my children to study and graduate in whatever subject they choose, so that they have a good job and get paid well.”

Ana’s desire is the same one that Latino families have had for generations. After all, a child in college is a reward for parents’ sacrifice – and a symbol of family prosperity.

“Since I started working for MPN, I have always been amazed at the hope and passion families in our community have for their children to have the right education to meet the challenges of the future,” says MPN Family Success Coach Luis Ostolaza (photo, far left). “That’s why our team and collaborative partners embrace our mission to connect families with all the tools they need to succeed in life. K2C is one of those tools where we have to enlighten our community. This gives me great joy and I am very happy to be able to contribute whatever is necessary to make this hope come true.”

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En los primeros meses de la pandemia, cientos de familias inmigrantes perdieron o vieron limitado un servicio del que poco se habla en las noticias: el acceso a servicios legales sin costo.

El cierre de oficinas obligó a los abogados al trabajo virtual o telefónico, una situación poco ideal cuando se trata de servir a una comunidad. La falta de acceso a computadores o conexión de internet complicó más la situación.

Consciente de esa realidad, Amanda Alvarado Ford, directora ejecutiva de La Raza Centro Legal (LRCL), encontró un espacio para la organización dentro del hub de servicios comunitarios que Latino Task Force puso en marcha en el edificio del Centro Social Obrero en 701 Alabama.

LRCL es una organización de ayuda legal que ha operado en San Francisco desde 1973 con la misión de servir a la comunidad inmigrante, hispanohablante y de recursos económicos menores. Sus abogados trabajan en programas de inmigración afirmativa (solicitudes de Green Card y renovaciones de DACA, por citar un par de ejemplos), asilo y defensa de deportación, derechos de adultos mayores y derechos de trabajadores.

“Me enteré de que el director [del Hub] necesitaba un servicio de consulta legal, especialmente uno que atendiera lo relacionado con inmigración, ya que tenían una gran demanda”, dice Alvarado Ford, quien notificó a resto de líderes de LRCL que comenzaría a ver clientes en persona en el Hub a mitad del verano de 2020. “Me sentí cómoda, fue una decisión personal, así que en los primeros días yo era la única que se reunía con los clientes.”

En el Hub, Alvarado Ford se sometía a pruebas de COVID-19 semanalmente como indicaban los protocolos de seguridad sanitaria ya que no había vacuna. La abogada recuerda que al principio atendía a cuatro personas por día, pero con el paso de los meses se llegó a atender hasta 12 personas en un periodo de cuatro horas. Al menos seis casos de asilo fueron tomados en el Hub en los últimos 18 meses.

“LRCL brindó tranquilidad a las familias inmigrantes al ajustar su enfoque con el fin de satisfacer las necesidades de la comunidad, lo que hizo que el equipo de LRCL se convirtiera en trabajadores esenciales”, dice Celina Castro-Saelao, gerente de apoyo familiar en Comunidad Promesa de la Mission. “El apoyo en casos de inmigración siguió siendo crucial durante la pandemia, y LRCL ha sido fundamental para aliviar las preocupaciones”.

A este esfuerzo se suma que LRCL atendió a cientos de clientes en consultas virtuales o telefónicas. También hubo reuniones en la calle, todo con el objetivo de tener una respuesta oportuna a los casos de clientes, especialmente cuando son de inmigración.

“Si no fuera por la rápida respuesta de mi abogada y la presentación de la solicitud, no habría podido obtener mi Green Card tan rápido”, dice uno de los clientes de LRCL. “Ella pudo comunicarse con inmigración y defender mi caso”.

Lo hecho por LRCL durante la pandemia resalta más cuando se tiene en cuenta que se hizo sin financiamiento adicional por más de un año.

“Son horas extra las que dedicamos y terminan empujando nuestro trabajo a la noche y los fines de semana”, dice Alvarado. “Fue una labor que añadimos a nuestro flujo de trabajo existente”.

Al cierre de 2021, LRCL volvió a abrir las puertas de sus oficinas a los clientes gracias a que las condiciones mejoraron con el proceso de vacunación en San Francisco. De todos modos, la pandemia dejó claro que los abogados de estas agencias sin costo son otra clase de trabajadores esenciales dentro de las comunidades inmigrantes.

“Sentimos que era muy importante ir a donde estaba la gente”, dice Alvarado. “Y si las personas iban al Hub en busca de alimentos y ayuda, sentíamos que teníamos que estar en el medio de todo para poder atender a las personas que necesitaban la ayuda”.

Mission Promise Neighborhood Partner La Raza Centro Legal’s Pandemic Response: Essential Workers Helping Essential Workers

In the initial months of the pandemic, hundreds of immigrant families lost or had limited access to an essential service barely mentioned in the news: free Spanish-language legal-aid services.

Office closures compelled legal-aid lawyers to work virtually or by phone — a less-than-ideal situation when it comes to serving the community. The community’s lack of access to computers or an internet connection further complicated matters.

Aware of this reality, Amanda Alvarado Ford (photo, top), Executive Director of La Raza Centro Legal (LRCL), found a space for the organization within the community services Hub that the Latino Task Force launched in the Centro Social Obrero building at 701 Alabama St. in the Mission.

Since 1973, LRCL has operated in San Francisco, always with a mission of empowering Latino, immigrant and low-income communities so they can advocate for their civil and human rights. LRCL attorneys focus on affirmative immigration law (e.g., Green Card applications and DACA renewals), asylum and deportation defense, elder rights and workers’ rights. 

“I learned the director [of the Hub] needed a legal consultant, especially an immigration consultant since these were very much in demand,” says Alvarado Ford, who told the rest of the LRCL leadership that she would start seeing clients in person at the Hub. “I felt comfortable putting myself out there. It was a personal decision, so in the early days I was the only one meeting with clients.”

At the Hub, Alvarado Ford took weekly COVID-19 tests, as indicated by health-security protocols, since there was not yet a vaccine. The attorney remembers that in the beginning she met around four clients a day, but, as the months passed, she was able to assist up to 12 community members in a period of four hours. This included six asylum cases.

“LRCL provided peace of mind to immigrant families by adjusting their approach to meet the needs of the community and by LRCL staff becoming essential workers,” says Celina Castro-Saelao, Family Support Manager at Mission Promise Neighborhood. “Immigration support continued to be crucial during the pandemic, and LRCL has been pivotal in alleviating concerns.”

LRCL complemented this in-person service by serving hundreds of clients via virtual or phone consultations. There were even some meetings on the street, all with the aim of having a timely response to client cases, especially those related to immigration.

“If it wasn’t for my attorney’s rapid response and application submission, I wouldn’t have been able to so quickly get my Green Card,” explained one LRCL client. “She was able to get through to immigration and plead my case.”

LRCL’s work for the community during the pandemic stands out all the more because this work was done without additional funding for more than a year.

“It’s just extra hours that we are putting in and it ends up pushing our work into the evening and weekends,” says Alvarado Ford. “The extra work is  just squeezed into our existing workflow.”

At the end of 2021, LRCL reopened the doors of its clients offices when public health conditions improved because of the development and release of COVID-19 vaccines. The pandemic made it clear that attorneys for these nonprofit agencies are another type of essential worker within immigrant communities.

“We believed that it was important to get out into the community to meet people where they are at,” concludes Alvarado. “And if people were going to the Hub for food items and help, we knew we needed to be right in the middle, helping people where they needed the help.”

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Al regresar a sus puestos de trabajo en el verano de 2020, un grupo de maestras de educación de temprana edad  en la Mission se vio ante un desafío que no habían vivido antes: decirle a los niños que no podían jugar juntos. 

“Por el distanciamiento social fue un desafío, era bien complicado”, recuerda Irma Chereno, una de las educadoras de Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, un aliado educativo de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission que por más de 100 años apoya a las familias inmigrantes con la educación y cuidado de sus hijos más pequeños. 

En los últimos 18 meses, las maestras de Good Samaritan han vivido un proceso transformativo en varios aspectos de sus vidas para poder cumplir con su misión dentro de una comunidad impactada desproporcionadamente por la pandemia del COVID-19. Las condiciones de vida de las familias y el protagonismo de los inmigrantes en la fuerza laboral resaltan aún más el trabajo de este tipo de organizaciones.

“Fue algo bastante complejo para maestras, para las familias, para los niños, sumado al riesgo que estábamos tomando al reintegrarnos acá cuando el COVID estaba en su peor etapa”, dice Chereno, quien fue una de las primeras maestras en retomar el trabajo presencial en  Good Samaritan después de cerca de dos meses de cierres obligatorios en San Francisco y educación virtual.

La pandemia representó cambios en la forma de trabajar para Good Samaritan, pero nunca modificó su misión de “ayudar a las familias vulnerables, incluidas las familias inmigrantes, a acceder a los servicios necesarios, desarrollar la autosuficiencia y participar plenamente como miembros de la comunidad de San Francisco”.  La demanda por sus servicios se hizo mayor a medida que las necesidades de las familias se apilaban. Durante el encierro se hizo obligatorio recurrir a la tecnología para mantener el contacto con los miembros de la comunidad.

“La tarea principal fue la comunicación ya que muchas familias no tenían acceso a internet, o no tenían computadoras”, explica Angélica Torres Castillo, educadora líder de niños entre 3 y 4 años en Good Samaritan. “Las maestras empezamos a reunirnos con programas como WhatsApp, ya que muchas familias estaban familiarizadas con eso, y también usando el Zoom”.

Pero comprender el mundo virtual fue apenas una parte de los cambios. La operación presencial en la sede de Good Samaritan en Potrero Avenue tuvo que ser modificada para poder servir a la comunidad para poder garantizar la seguridad de niños, familias, maestros y otros trabajadores esenciales que hacen parte de la organización.  Hasta el día de hoy hay protocolos estrictos de limpieza, distanciamiento social y uso de mascarillas.

“Cuando las circunstancias parecían más extremas, nuestros maestros respondieron a nuestro llamado para satisfacer las necesidades de los niños más pequeños de nuestra comunidad,” dice Melissa Castillo, directora del Centro de Desarrollo Infantil de Good Samaritan. “Si bien reconocemos que la pandemia ha ampliado la brecha educativa y desafía el futuro de nuestros niños, nuestros maestros continúan brindando estabilidad y cuidado, y brindan entornos de aprendizaje enriquecedores en nuestro programa.”

Otra realidad, nuevos enfoques
Cumplir con su misión de servicio a la comunidad implicó sacrificios y esfuerzos en casa de los educadores, que, como el resto de la población, luchaban para proteger a sus familias.

“En casa puse desinfectantes en la puerta, al llegar me quitaba los zapatos y los desinfectaba; desinfectaba manijas porque tenía que cuidar a la familia”, recuerda Chereno, quien vive con dos adultos de 90 años. 

Tanto rigor tenía un precio emocional. La protección llegaba a representar distancia de los seres queridos por más que se compartiera el mismo espacio.

“Me vi en el punto de no abrazar a mis padres”, dice Torres. “Fue un cambio fuerte, especialmente en lo emocional, pero teníamos que tener un sistema riguroso porque no sabíamos mucho sobre el virus”.

La nueva realidad impulsó a robustecer los servicios de Good Samaritan tanto para sus educadores como para miembros de la comunidad. En el último año se implementó un desarrollo profesional más sólido para los maestros, mientras que a las familias se les pudo proveer con alimentación y asistencia económica. En el campo de salud mental se trabajó con especialistas para dar un mejor respaldo a las familias.

“A medida que Good Samaritan comience a reinventar su modelo de prestación de servicios en la post-pandemia, las relaciones auténticas que los maestros han construido con los niños y los padres serán un modelo de cómo las comunidades se unen para apoyarse mutuamente y abogar por el cambio”, dice Ada Freund, gerente de aprendizaje de temprana edad de Comunidad  Promesa de la Mission.  

Un pueblo entero
A más de un año de pandemia, las maestras de Good Samaritan se movilizan inspiradas por las familias a las que sirven en tiempos en que se redoblan los esfuerzos. Su trabajo tiene otra dimensión como consecuencia de una mayor interacción con los miembros de la comunidad. 

“Casi que nos convertimos en trabajadoras sociales”, dice Torres, quien pide mayor atención, inversión y reconocimiento a la labor de maestras de educación temprana. “También somos maestros, nos preparamos para esto, estamos enseñando”. 

La multiplicación de los esfuerzos sirvió para renovar y reforzar los lazos de Good Samaritan con otras organizaciones. La estrecha colaboración ha sido fundamental para resolver el presente y decidir la hoja de ruta del futuro.

“Entendemos que realmente se necesita a todo un pueblo, y trabajamos en estrecha colaboración con socios de la comunidad para brindarles a los niños todas las oportunidades para que alcancen su máximo potencial”, dice Castillo. “Nuestro socio en alfabetización, Tandem, nos proporciona libros y acceso a materiales de alfabetización culturalmente diversos. Otros socios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission nos ayudaron con cajas de alimentos, suministros de protección sanitaria y artículos de emergencia para las familias durante el pico de la crisis pandémica. Lo más importante es que todos aprendimos que somos más fuertes cuando todos trabajamos juntos”.

Good Samaritan: Pivoting to Best Educate Children and Serve the Community During a Pandemic

Upon returning to their Mission District job site in summer 2020, a group of early education teachers were faced with an unusual challenge: telling children they could no longer play together.

“Social distancing created a challenge. It was very complicated,” recalls Irma Chereno, one of the Early Child Educators (ECE) at Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, an organization that for over a century has supported immigrant families with the education of their young ones. Good Samaritan has also been a decade-long partner of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, a community anti-poverty education initiative for which MEDA is the lead agency.

In the last 18 months, Good Samaritan teachers have pivoted to support a community disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to overcrowded living conditions of families coupled with the majority of Latino immigrants being frontline essential workers.

“The situation was quite complex for teachers, for families and for children, and this was all the riskier because we were reintegrating our programs when COVID-19 was at its peak,” says Chereno, who was one of the first teachers to resume face-to-face work at Good Samaritan after about two months of shelter-in-place and virtual education.

While the pandemic changed the way Good Samaritan operates, it never changed its mission “to help vulnerable families, including immigrant families, access needed services, develop self-sufficiency and participate fully as members of the San Francisco community.” The demand for their services grew as the urgent needs of families piled up. During confinement, technology became instrumental to maintaining contact with community members.

“The main task was communication since many families did not have access to the internet, or did not have computers,” explains Angélica Torres Castillo, a Master Teacher of 3- and 4-years-olds. “We began to meet through programs such as WhatsApp, since many families in our community use it, and also using Zoom.”

But understanding the virtual world was only part of the changes. The operations at Good Samaritan’s site on Potrero Avenue had to be modified to serve the community while ensuring the safety of children, families, teachers and other essential workers who are all integral parts of the organization. To this day, there are strict protocols for cleaning, social distancing and mask wearing. 

“When circumstances looked most dire, our selfless teachers answered our call to meet the needs of our community’s youngest children,” says Melissa Castillo, Child Development Center Director at Good Samaritan. “While we recognize the pandemic has widened the educational gap and challenges the future for our children, we are proud that our teachers continue to provide stability and care, and always provide a nurturing learning environment.”

Another reality, new approaches
While trying to accomplish their mission with the children, ECE teachers navigated through a series of sacrifices and efforts at their own homes as they tried to protect their loved ones, just like the rest of their neighbors were doing.

“At home, I put disinfectants on the door. I would take off my shoes and disinfect them. I sanitized handles because I had to take care of the family,” recalls Chereno, who lives with a pair of 90-year-olds.

Such discipline took an emotional toll: Protection meant distancing from loved ones in the space they usually shared.

“At one point, I saw myself not hugging my parents,” says Torres. “It was a strong change, emotionally challenging, but we had to have a rigorous system because we didn’t know much about the virus at that time.”

The new reality prompted the strengthening of Good Samaritan’s services for its educators and community members. In the last year, stronger professional development was implemented for teachers, while families were provided with food and financial assistance. In terms of mental health, Good Samaritan worked with specialists to give better support to families.

 “As Good Samaritan begins to reimagine their post-pandemic service delivery strategy, the authentic partnerships teachers have built with children and parents will be a model of how communities come together to support each other and advocate for change,” says Ada Freund, Mission Promise Neighborhood Early Learning Manager.

The future
A year and a half into the pandemic, Good Samaritan teachers continue to pivot, inspired by the families they serve in this time of a doubled effort by staff. Their work now offers a more intricate interaction with members of the community.

“We basically became social workers,” says Torres, who urges for more attention, investment and recognition of the work ECE teachers do. “We are also teachers, we have studied to be educators, we are teaching.”

 This time of multiplying efforts and redefining roles for Good Samaritan has also been one to renew and strengthen ties with other community-based organizations. Close collaboration has been essential to resolving current challenges — and for drawing a roadmap for the future equitable recovery needed in the Mission.

“At Good Samaritan, we further understand that it really, really does take a village, and we work closely with community partners and supporters to provide children with every opportunity for them to achieve their full potential,” says Castillo. “For example, MPN literacy partner, Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, provides us with books and access to culturally diverse and language-appropriate literacy materials. Other MPN partners helped us with food boxes, PPE supplies and emergency essential goods for families during the height of the pandemic crisis. The most important lesson is that we are stronger when we all work together.”

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Co-authored by:
Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez
Early Learning Program Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund
Chief Operations Officer, Felton Institute, Dr. Yohana Quiroz

Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) was honored to speak this week at the Community Indicators Consortium (CIC) impact summit, an annual conference with an audience of national and international policymakers, researchers and practitioners. This year’s powerful theme was “Community Indicators for Change: Responding, Rebuilding, and Advancing Equity.” We showcased MPN partner Felton Institute, together sharing best practices from our equity-focused collective impact work to improve school-readiness outcomes for the Latino and immigrant community of San Francisco’s Mission District.

Why school readiness matters
Overwhelming evidence indicates that children who enter kindergarten behind are likely to remain behind throughout their educational careers and beyond. For the 2019-2020 school year in San Francisco, Latinx children showcased the highest disparity in school readiness: Latinx children were 44% ready compared to 76% of their white peers.*

MPN focuses on combatting this disparity and has inspired a movement with partners and families to reverse this trend. MPN early care and education programs serve 85% Latinx children, with 99% of them eligible for local, state and federal subsidies. Of the approximately 68% of children who qualify for a federal subsidy, families qualify using the 2021 federal poverty level of $26,500 for a family of four — exceeding low by San Francisco standards.

The equitable-focused, community-centered, collective impact strategies that MPN has devised and implemented over time have led to positive results. For instance, a recent MPN PreK longitudinal study demonstrated that participation in preschool is not enough for our community’s low-income children of color. Our 2018 study found that children who attended an MPN preschool and whose families participated in various programs and services across our network were 71% ready at kindergarten compared to the Mission District average of 43%. 

MPN as a model, with infrastructure in place to meet a crisis head-on
MPN works to close the achievement and opportunity gap. For close to a decade, MPN has developed deep relationships with 15+ partners, including nine early learning partners, and recently with an additional 13 family child care educators who collaborate on a common agenda to support children and families in being ready for school — and for schools being ready for children and families. Our unique prenatal to post-secondary pipeline of supports always puts families at the center as a way to create a strong foundation for economic stability and academic success. 

That success stems from our working together to break down organizational silos based on our commitment to a collective impact and Results-Based Accountability approach that includes: a common agenda; collecting data and consistently measuring results; coordinating mutually reinforcing activities; open and continuous communication; and, most importantly, taking a strengths-based approach when partnering with families in a culturally responsive and authentic way. 

MPN develops authentic partnerships with parents and caretakers by growing leadership capacity and addressing the critical role parents play in their children’s education. Parents are, in fact, their child’s first and most important teacher. Since 2017, when partners began aligning the Abriendo Puertas parenting and leadership program strategy, a total of 985 parents from eight partner agencies have participated in this evidence-based program. Additionally, 14 of these parents have completed the Abriendo Puerta facilitator training and are now actively facilitating the program in the Mission. Community agencies partnering with parents equals the latter becoming active changemakers. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit our community, MPN partners were best equipped to respond to the demands families were facing. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the Latinx community accounted for 50% of the COVID-19 positive cases while only making up 15% of San Francisco’s  population. Overcrowded living conditions and many being frontline essential workers coupled to cause a perfect storm. Most partners paused their usual programming and pivoted to a triage approach to ensure families had access to basic needs. Because of the existing MPN collective impact approach, we had the infrastructure in place to address the pandemic’s disproportionately negative impacts on our community. 

Partner highlight: FeltonDuring COVId-19, early learning partner Felton Institute became a community hub that provided immediate wraparound services to families. Additionally, Felton Institute continued to address children’s social and emotional needs to ensure young ones were kindergarten-ready.

Rooted in equity, Felton’s mission is to transform quality of life and promote social justice to accelerate community-led change. The vision is to drive positive and sustainable community-led change where all have equitable access to innovative, high-quality, evidence-informed services.

As an established community-based organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, Felton has built on its 133-year history addressing inequities to pivot and continue to innovate to address the conditions that were already prevalent before COVID-19 but have been exacerbated during the pandemic. Such issues include isolation, economic stress, food insecurity, stress and trauma, just to name a few, all which according to research are proven to negatively impact the well-being of families, their young children and the educators who care and educate them.

As an MPN early learning partner, Felton offers culturally relevant, trauma-informed early care and education and wraparound family support services for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families to reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress using the Five Protective Factors: strengthening parental resilience; augmenting social connections; increasing knowledge of parenting and child development; providing concrete supports in times of need; and supporting social-emotional competence in young children. These services are offered in Felton’s early care and education programs, which are critical settings providing opportunities for prevention and early intervention support, allowing families to heal, build community and grow as leaders and advocates.

During the past 18 months, in addition to increasing access to food, basic needs and financial relief, Felton has also responded to children under the age of five who have and continue to suffer from mental health and stress. They have worked with their family/caregivers to ensure that kids’ social-emotional needs are addressed and they can bounce back from these stressful experiences. They have offered parenting support groups, small playgroups, one-on-one support for children, and mental health consultation for early childhood teachers and their families. Felton has added a School Counselor role to focus on on-site individual trauma recovery and family crisis intervention to program participants. This includes intake, assessment and diagnosis, plus treatment-plan development and referrals to other early-intervention services. In this role, the School Counselor provides child-family psychotherapy, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), case management and advocacy services within a multi-disciplinary team — and as part of the treatment plan of children and families. 

Their goal is to promote well-being and prevent mental health conditions by addressing the needs of young children ages 0-5, given the unique opportunity for positive development during these foundational years and by leveraging authentic family partnerships. This is important because the K-readiness data shows that our Black and Brown children are lagging in comparison to their peers. Felton’s role is to increase awareness of infant and early childhood mental health to reduce stigma and ensure they open (access) and maintain the doors open (continuity) to prevention and early intervention services for families in community-based settings. Felton believes addressing the social and emotional needs of children now is more critical than ever.

Many San Francisco children and families, particularly those in our BIPOC communities, are under significant and escalating toxic stress. These families are under siege due to the simultaneous pandemics of COVID-19 and racism. The current public health crisis has exposed the historical and modern inequities BIPOC and underserved communities have experienced throughout life, which include: poverty; racism; discrimination; trauma; financial hardships; education; health; and mental health. These twin pandemics, along with the current racial reckoning that has flared up in the United States, necessitate a holistic whole person and systems response. In addition, with the pandemic, this stress and the inequities have become even more profound, and many of these communities are part of the “essential” workers, being placed at increased risk for being infected with the virus; and vulnerability to take adequate sick and isolation time and may also not access timely health care for multiple reasons. The added mental stress and safety of their families and communities will also become critical factors but balancing basic shelter and food security and health for some economic survival will become tough choices. These challenges will continue to exacerbate these inequities and have negative short and long–term consequences for our community.

As an MPN partner, Felton values the partnership focused on collaboration, and taking a collective impact approach to systems change. The partnership with 15+ community-based organizations has allowed for the breaking down of silos as we align services, reduce duplication of services and move the needle on many fronts, but in particular, kindergarten readiness.

Conclusion
As a result of our success in aligning efforts across organizations and partnering with families, we have seen an increase in the percentage of children entering our schools kinder-ready. MPN has provided partners with intentional opportunities to collaborate, share data, and create new strategies to address the most pressing disparities in our community.

As we look at post-pandemic recovery, Felton continues to be nimble and proactive, and will continue to use a collective impact approach to ensure they can impact and improve the health and well-being of their families. They look forward to the strong and long-standing partnership with MPN to continue a collective agenda, goals and advocacy. Felton is committed to being part of the solution by providing a community-led, two/multi-generational, whole child, whole family approach — all while advocating for systems level response investments and infrastructure.
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*Data Source: San Francisco Kindergarten Readiness Inventory,  2019-20. 

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[Click for English, which follows Spanish.]

La determinación de un padre y una red de organizaciones ayudan a un niño migrante con discapacidad a navegar las primeras etapas de su vida.

Hace cerca de dos años, Arold Josué Hernández llegó a San Francisco junto a su hijo Samuel como consecuencia del asesinato de su esposa en Honduras. Desde entonces su vida se ha concentrado en brindar al niño, de cuatro años y con una discapacidad visual (retinopatía de bebé prematuro), todas las herramientas que necesita para su cuidado y empezar su proceso formativo.

En ese camino ha contado con el respaldo de los socios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission. Arold y Samuel vivieron en albergues desde su llegada, auxiliados por Compass Family Services.

Hace un par de meses, Arold logró uno de los mayores hitos de su proceso al mudarse un apartamento de vivienda económica luego de ganar una lotería de vivienda de la Oficina de Vivienda y Desarrollo Comunitario del Alcalde de San Francisco (DAHLIA) y obtener un subsidio de vivienda de Hamilton Families, una organización que asiste a familias sin hogar.

“Al comienzo de la pandemia tuve la oportunidad [de mudarme a vivienda económica], pero al quedarme sin empleo no pude”, dice Arold, quien tendría una nueva chance casi que un año después, cuando se recuperaba de una cirugía que le impedía trabajar. “Hace dos meses me enviaron la documentación, pero tenía dos semanas de que me habían operado. Con los ingresos por beneficios de desempleo pude enviar mi solicitud [de lotería de vivienda]. Dos días antes de que DAHLIA me enviara una confirmación, Hamilton aprobó un subsidio de vivienda para pagar mi renta por 20 meses”.

El proceso hizo de Arold un “experto” en las loterías de vivienda económica de DAHLIA y una voz que puede ofrecer recomendaciones a otros miembros de la comunidad.

“Si había ofertas a diario, pues a diario solicitaba, de eso se trata porque por eso es una lotería, es la suerte”, dice Arold, que insiste en que el seguimiento de los miembros de la comunidad a los procesos es vital para obtener servicios. “No por el hecho de aplicar le van a dar a uno vivienda. Es cierto que la ciudad ofrece todo el apoyo necesario, pero necesitamos buscarlo nosotros mismos”.

Una red de servicios
Arold entró en contacto con Comunidad Promesa de la Mission por recomendación de una de las terapistas de Samuel en el Distrito Escolar Unificado de San Francisco. Así fue que conoció a Ana Avilez, quien se desempeñaba como Early Learning Family Success Coach en Comunidad Promesa de la Mission. Avilez determinó los servicios que ayudarían mejor a la familia a instalarse en su vida en San Francisco y, al mismo tiempo, encontrar la mejor atención para Samuel.

“Por medio de Ana apliqué a DAHLIA para vivienda de bajo costo, pude aplicar para la escuela (Tule Elk Park Child Development Center) pude dar con recursos para alimentación y conseguir ayuda económica cuando empezó la pandemia”, dice Arold. “La verdad que Ana ha sido mi mano derecha”.

Una vez conectado con organizaciones, Arold se ha concentrado en formar un equipo con socios comunitarios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission como Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, que brindó al padre información sobre sus derechos y los servicios que recibiría Samuel a través de su Plan de educación individualizado. Adicionalmente, Felton Institute ha prestado servicios para el cuidado de Samuel.

“Cuando Arold recibe un ‘no’, él no se detiene”, dice Avilez sobre la determinación del padre hondureño. “Ahora sabe que puede solicitar recursos que le pueden beneficiar. Ahora tienen una vivienda permanente, su hijo tiene todas las terapias y una escuela que cumple con sus necesidades”.

Un niño que navega el mundo
A punto de cumplir cinco años, el pequeño Samuel empieza a desenvolverse en el mundo como ha sido la intención de su padre. En Felton Institute se le apoyó por medio de asistencia individual para que navegara su espacio en el salón de clases y formar amistades con otros niños. Según el padre, el niño desarrolló habilidades como usar la cuchara para comer, tomar un vaso para beber y ponerse de pie sin elementos de apoyo durante su paso por Felton.

“Son cosas que antes no hacía”, dice Arold. “Mis respetos para ese programa [Felton] porque se ve reflejado en mi hijo todo el empeño, el entusiasmo y esmero que ellos le ponen para que los hijos aprendan”.

Ese sentimiento de admiración es recíproco por parte de Felton.

“Arold siempre ha sido un gran defensor de sí mismo y de Samuel”, dice Azul Muller, maestra de preescolar en Felton Institute. “Hizo un gran trabajo al conectarse con tantas personas diferentes porque tiene un gran grupo de apoyo e hizo un trabajo increíble al asegurarse de que todos estuvieran en la misma página”.

La maestra también destaca la influencia de Samuel en el salón de clases. De acuerdo con Muller, Samuel trajo al aula un nuevo elemento de cuidado y de cómo ser humano con otros menores.

“[Los niños] se dieron cuenta de cómo realmente preocuparse por alguien que necesitaba ayuda adicional, y lo hicieron de una manera tan amorosa y cariñosa que sentí que si Sammy no hubiera estado en nuestro salón de clases, no hubiéramos podido experimentar ese tipo de atención por otras personas. Sammy nos enseñó eso a su manera”.

Samuel actualmente asiste a una escuela del Distrito Escolar Unificado de San Francisco y recibe todas las terapias que necesita. Después de recibir su alta médica, Arold regresó a la fuerza laboral. Es importante añadir que La Raza Centro Legal, otro socio comunitario de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission, lo conectó con un abogado de inmigración pro bono que lo ayudó a obtener un permiso de trabajo hace unos meses.

Con la determinación de esta familia y el apoyo de los socios de Comunidad Promesa de la Mission, el futuro es ahora brillante tanto para el padre como para el hijo.

To Better the Future for his Disabled Son, An Immigrant Father Harnesses the Power of the Mission Promise Neighborhood Support Network  

The determination of a father plus the collective support of a network of organizations are combining to help an immigrant child with a disability navigate the early stages of his life.

Arold Josué Hernández and son Samuel arrived in San Francisco around two years ago. Arold was fleeing violence after his wife was tragically murdered in their homeland of Honduras. Since arriving in the U.S., the loving father’s life has focused on providing the 4-year-old the necessary tools to assist with the child’ visual impairment (retinopathy caused by Samuel being born prematurely).

Arold’s journey has included wraparound support from Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) partners. Arold and Samuel had lived in shelters since their arrival from Honduras, being assisted by Compass Family Services during that time

The good news is that Arold recently achieved a major milestone by moving into affordable housing: He won the lottery for a below-market-rate (BMR) apartment from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (DAHLIA). Support also arrived in the form of his obtaining a housing subsidy from Hamilton Families, an organization that assists homeless families 

“At the beginning of the pandemic I won a lottery and had the opportunity [to move into affordable housing], but then I was left without a job, so I couldn’t do so,” says Arold, who would have a new chance almost a year later, just right when he was recovering from the surgery that prevented him from working. “Two months ago, they [DAHLIA] sent me the documentation, but it had been two weeks since my surgery. I was able to submit my [housing lottery] application because of my income from unemployment benefits . Hamilton approved a housing allowance to pay my rent for 20 months two days before DAHLIA sent me a confirmation of getting an apartment.”

The process made Arold an “expert” in DAHLIA’s lotteries — and a voice that can offer recommendations to fellow community members seeking affordable housing in San Francisco.

“If there were offers daily, well, I applied daily, That’s what it’s about because that’s why it’s a lottery — it’s luck,” says Arold, who insists that the follow up of applicants is vital to obtain services. “Just because you apply, they are not going to give you a home. It is true that the City offers all the necessary support, but we need to look for it ourselves.”

An entry to a networkArold contacted MPN on the recommendation of one of Samuel’s therapists from the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). This is how he met Ana Avilez, who then served as an MPN Early Learning Family Success Coach. Avilez determined the services that would best help the family settle into their life in San Francisco while also finding the best care for Samuel. 

“Through Ana, I applied to DAHLIA for BMR housing, I was able to apply for school (Tule Elk Park Child Development Center), plus I was able to find resources for food and get financial aid when the pandemic began,” states Arold. “The truth is that Ana has been my right-hand person.”

Once connected with organizations, Arold has focused on working as a team with MPN community partners, such as Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, who provided information on his rights and what services Samuel will be receiving via his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Additionally, Felton Institute has been a care provider for Samuel.

“When Arold receives a no, he won’t stop there,” Avilez explains of the Honduran father’s determination. “He now knows how he can apply for resources from which his family can benefit. Now they have a permanent home, and the child has all the therapies and a school that can fulfill his needs.”

A boy ready to navigate the world
About to turn five years old, little Samuel is now beginning to develop as his father always hoped. At Felton Institute, Samuel was supported through individual assistance to navigate his space in the classroom and form friendships with other children. According to his father, the boy also developed skills such as using a spoon to eat, taking a glass to drink and standing up without support — all accomplishments achieved during Samuel’s time at Felton.

“These are things that he didn’t do before,” explains Arold. “I have respect for all of the effort, enthusiasm and care Felton puts in so that children learn.”

Such admiration is reciprocated on Felton’s part. 

“Arold has always been such a great advocate for himself and Samuel. He will go out of his way to make sure his son got what he needed,” says Azul Muller, Preschool Mentor Teacher at Felton Institute. “He did a great job in connecting with so many different people because Arold has a big support group, and he did an amazing job in ensuring that everyone was on the same page.”

The teacher also highlighted Samuel’s influence on others while he was at Felton. According to Muller, Samuel brought into the classroom a new element of caring and how to be human with other kids.

“They [students] were noticing how to really care for someone who needed extra help in such a loving and caring way that I felt that if Sammy wasn’t in our classroom, we wouldn’t have been able to experience that sort of empathy for other people,” says Muller. “In his own way, Sammy really taught us that in our classroom.” 

Samuel currently attends an SFUSD school and receives all his needed therapies. After receiving his medical discharge, Arold has returned to the workforce: MPN partner La Raza Centro Legal connected him to a pro bono immigration lawyer who helped him obtain a work permit. 

With this family’s determination and the support of MPN partners, the future is now bright for both father and son. 

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Co-authored by:
Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya
Associate Director of Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez

It’s now an unstoppable national movement: We are collaborating to improve the lives of children, breaking down barriers to build a better future for our next generation.

Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is honored to be accepted into the StriveTogether Network, which comprises nearly 70 cradle-to-career initiatives across the country. Of the 13 million children served by these initiatives, 50 percent are Latinx. MPN is equally honored to moderate the plenary discussion, featuring a keynote by renowned Stacey Abrams, at the national StriveTogether conference in Washington, D.C. 

Seven years ago, tapping into the vision of then-President Barack Obama, San Francisco’s MPN became a reality. We decided that the most impactful way for our kids to succeed was to provide wraparound resources to them and their parents along the cradle-to-career continuum,  and to build the capacity of parents to be their children’s first and best advocate. Think of it as a two-generation approach.

MPN joined with more than 20 other Mission community-based organizations and aligned with City and school district leaders. We agreed on a common agenda and shared data; we collectively held ourselves accountable to results. 

Over the years, this community anti-poverty education initiative saw the following collaborative results:

  • Families reporting a medical home for children 0-5 increased from 61 percent in 2016 to 80 percent in 2018.
  • 5-year olds who were assessed as kinder-ready increased from 25 percent in 2015 to 45 percent in 2018 at target schools.
  • Students testing at or above grade-level in eighth-grade math increased from 30.2 percent in 2015 to 41.8 percent in 2018.
  • Students testing at or above grade-level in English Language Arts increased from 22.1 percent in 2013 to 36.2 percent in 2018.
  • High school graduation rates, at the MPN target high school, increased from 68 percent in 2012 to 89 percent in 2018, with the greatest increases seen for the Latinx and African American student populations. 

We are not the only ones seeing results. 

StriveTogether Networks’ initiatives are seeing similar results, creating larger-scale systems by banding together.

Stacey Abrams was the first Black woman to be nominated by a major party for governor (that occurring in Georgia) and the first Black woman to deliver the formal response to the State of the Union address. She also tripled the Latinx, Asian-American and Pacific Islander voter turnout in her state. At this week’s conference, Stacey Abrams will share how community authority and mobilization are crucial to the advocacy and policy work that will improve the lives of children of color, and any of our kids living in poverty. 

Over the years, MPN’s host agency, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), learned that it must do more than provide services to achieve systems change. MEDA pivoted to build parent voice and resident participation in the political process, creating a state bill with other California Promise Neighborhoods that, if approved, would legislate the creation of 20 state-funded Promise Neighborhoods. The reasoning behind the bill is that Promise Neighborhoods are “good government”: efficient coordination of services; data sharing among agencies; and accountability to results. This bill, SB 686, has experienced early success, and is currently working its way through the legislative process. 

SB 686 is part of a national movement for increased coordination of programs and greater accountability to results along the cradle-to-career continuum. We are grateful for the work that the StriveTogether Network is nationally undertaking to scale this approach, and we are proud to be part of the change. 

The theme of this year’s StriveTogether conference is “Unstoppable” — and that’s because we have proved that together we are, indeed, unstoppable. 

 

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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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by Director of Program Evaluation, Learning and Impact Morgan Buras-Finlay

The seemingly innocuous “referral” is a mainstay of nonprofits — the most-basic way organizations ensure they meet the needs of the communities they serve. Such referrals support individuals and families as they navigate the ever-complex and changing network of nonprofits, government agencies and institutions.

Yet even in 2018 the majority of referrals are still shared via fax, phone or paper, hindering accountability and leading to a paucity of insights into the services offered.

From its inception in 2012, the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) education initiative has taken a collective-impact approach to community engagement and service delivery. The defining factor was the creation of a 20-partner network supporting families and their children along a continuum of asset building and academic achievement.

It was imperative that MPN require a method for measuring the health of the partner network, thereby providing accountability as it relates to service integration. This need evolved into MPN’s Referral Network Tool.

“I have firsthand seen the power of the implementation of the Referral Network Tool. Our partners no longer work in silos, and impact is now all the greater, as we strengthen our families,” explains Family Support Manager Celina Ramos-Castro.

After 2.5 years of collecting referral data, MPN is now able to see trends and speak to lessons learned.

The numbers tell the story: The MPN network generated 4,389 referrals and impacted 2,303 individual families between Jan. 1, 2014 and Aug. 1, 2017.

During that time, the following lessons were learned around three main topics:

  1. Digital Referral Networks. These networks are where hardware (technology) meets software (real people), and both must be mutually reinforcing. Ensuring that the human needs are being met will make certain the technological solution takes hold.
  2. Network hubs. Think of this as spokes on a wheel. It is crucial to have a few designated individuals out in the field and dedicated to connecting families.
  3. Service Areas. Networks must include the services areas most needed by the community. Data on referrals will illuminate these service areas.

View the full brief.

Note: The article was presented as a poster at USF Data Institute Conference in November, 2017.

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The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a prenatal-to-career continuum of support services for families in San Francisco’s Mission District. The beginning of the pipeline includes many partner strategies and programs working to promote kinder readiness by ensuring that children have a medical home, are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program and that families support learning.

Mission Promise Neighborhood has learned that there are some key predictors of readiness in the Mission District, including: child well-being; frequency of family activities; not having special needs; family income level; and having a preschool experience. (Read Applied Survey Research report on kinder readiness in the Mission.)

Children are healthy
Mission Promise Neighborhood partners offer services that address the top six predictors of readiness. An example of how one partner is addressing most of these predictors by having an integrated approach to serving families is how Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC) offers prenatal services and is the medical home to most Mission Promise Neighborhood families. In 2016, the program supported 87 Mission women with the need for prenatal care. Of these women, 93 percent of their babies were born at both normal birth weight and gestational age at delivery. Additionally, 60 percent of those mothers initiated pediatric care at MNHC.

So far in 2017, MNHC has provided San Francisco children under five with 4,431 well-baby visits to ensure that children have a stable medical home and are healthy. In addition to not being sick, child well-being is also about their not being tired or hungry at school. MNHC has a family-support staff person that connects families to the resources and information they need to access food and, in some cases, a stable home. MNHC also houses a staff person from Support for Families who administers a developmental screening for children under five years old. This is a critical early-intervention service that ensures that children are developing in a healthy way and that if there is a concern, the family can be connected to the appropriate services. So far in 2017, Support for Families has conducted 93 screenings at MNHC. Lastly, the family support staff at MNHC ensures that families are connected to other Mission Promise Neighborhood partners that can provide families with information on early-childhood development, help families enroll in a high-quality preschool program and offer families financial services, such as MEDA’s financial capability program.

High-quality preschool
Mission Promise Neighborhood was designed to leverage much of the investments that First 5 San Francisco has made in the Mission District. First 5 SF supports the following MPN partners that offer preschool services:  Felton Institute, Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, and Mission Neighborhood Centers. These partners have been supported to meet the specific needs of the Mission’s Latino community, including culturally relevant training and enhancement funds to provide high-quality care.

Ingrid Mezquita, Executive Director of First 5 SF,  explains, “Providing a high-quality preschool experience means teachers receive ongoing support in their professional development, funding is available for children to have meaningful engagement, and programs reflect on student data to fine tune how to best meet children’s needs.”

Felton Institute exemplifies the impact being made for kids in the Mission Promise Neighborhood. The agency serves 400 children from birth to age 6, including those with special needs. After 46 years solely in the Mission, Felton Institute recently expanded to serve other San Francisco communities of color, with two centers in the Bayview and one in Visitacion Valley.

Explains Felton’s COO Yohana Quiroz of the power of being part of the collective: “Mission Promise Neighborhood has supported Felton Institute to achieve its mission and vision by leveraging and building upon existing community partnerships and coordinating our efforts for all to focus on a shared goal, using a Results-Based Accountability and collective-impact framework. This has supported our ability to continuously reflect on data, and focus on our collective efforts and how they align —  or not — to ensure we are continuing to move the needle to improve child outcomes.”

Quiroz has many client success stories to share, but one family’s experience truly showcases the impact being made in getting children kinder ready. States Quiroz, “A family with twins was struggling to find a service provider that could meet the needs of their children, who had a formal diagnosis. One of Felton Institute’s Early Childhood Education programs was able to enroll them in their infant-development program, which provides an inclusive learning environment for children with special needs and those typically developing. Now, after a few years, these children are thriving and will be transitioning into kindergarten next year, plus the mom has been able to get a full-time job, knowing that her two children are receiving comprehensive services that are ultimately supporting their school readiness.”

Eighty-two percent of San Francisco Latino 4-year-olds are now enrolled in Preschool For All — a huge success.

Despite this success, there are issues that remain, with First 5 San Francisco and Mission Promise Neighborhood committed to closing these gaps.

“Your ZIP code shouldn’t determine the quality of preschool. Every child deserves quality early education — it’s about creating opportunity for all of our kids,” concludes First 5 SF’s Mezquita.

Families support learning
To scale parent education/leadership programs — and in partnership with First 5 SF — six Mission Promise Neighborhood early-learning partners participated in the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors facilitator training last spring. Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors is the only evidence-based parent education/leadership program for Latino parents with children birth to age 5. According to the UC Berkeley Institute of Human Development, this program “empowers them to transform cultural strengths into the tangible tools they need to build solid foundations.” Parents showcase significant increases in their knowledge of language and literacy development, social-emotional development, health development and school preparation.

Mission Promise Neighborhood’s goal is to support partners in scaling Abriendo Puertas in the Mission community and across San Francisco. Mission Promise Neighborhood created an Abriendo Puertas Learning community for facilitators to support each other and share best practices. Since April, there has been an increase in the amount of families that are accessing Abriendo Puertas, especially via partners that had never offered the curriculum before.

Conclusion
The initial five years of life are critical for shaping childhood outcomes. That’s why a collective impact approach has been put in place by the Mission Promise Neighborhood to address gaps, provide high-quality preschool and make sure all of our children in the Mission District are kinder ready.

A common value of closing the opportunity gap is what drives this work.

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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. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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“For all families, health starts with food on the table and a roof over our heads. It warms our hearts to see the smiles on the faces of these families in their new and secure homes,” says Executive Director Brenda Storey of Mission Neighborhood Health Center (MNHC). She was speaking in general about Mission Promise Neighborhood families, and specifically of the families of siblings Jazmin and Marcos Florian. MNHC has served the Mission’s Latino community for almost five decades and is a valued Mission Promise Neighborhood partner.

Jazmin Florian, spouse Antonio Chunux and their two children (photo, left) are now in a below-market-rate (BMR) apartment rental at Abaca on Third Street in Dogpatch, while Marcos Florian and wife Jessica Alvarez (photo, right) found affordable housing at Five 88 in Mission Bay. Both are brand-new developments featuring many amenities.

To make affordable housing a reality, it took determination by the families and a partnership between MNHC and MEDA, the latter the lead agency of the Mission Promise Neighborhood.

MNHC knows that a lack of safe, secure and quality housing can lead to major health issues.

Chronic Disease Coordinator Iran Pont explains the issue as follows: “Studies show that if you are under stress because you don’t have a home, then major health issues can occur. if you don’t have the roots of your home established, you can’t build anything else.”

That’s why MNHC’s Storey reached out to MEDA to provide affordable-housing workshops at her clinic. This formal request occurred during one of Mission Promise Neighborhood’s monthly referral network meetings, where the 20+ partner organizations share information and best practices around direct services.

Last December, Jazmin Florian attended the first workshop at MNHC, with MEDA Community Planning Manager Dairo Romero availing Latino families of the affordable-housing opportunities in San Francisco’s pipeline, plus how to get rental ready so that eligibility requirements can be met once you win the housing lottery. At this meeting, a distressed Jazmin shared with the group that her entire family was in the throes of an owner move-in eviction from their Bayview neighborhood home — a home where her family of four lived in one unit, and her brother and his spouse lived in the other flat.

Jazmin was made aware of how San Francisco’s Displaced Tenant Housing Preference (DTHP) for evicted residents could help her family win the lottery and find a new affordable home in the form of a BMR rental. So she and sister-in-law Jessica filled out the necessary DTHP paperwork. They then applied for BMR rentals at multiple properties.

Jazmin won three lotteries, but was initially denied because her family had not filed for the 2015 tax year. MEDA helped appeal Jazmin’s case with the developer, plus the MEDA tax team prepared the taxes for free. Jazmin, Antonio and their children moved into Abaca in July. Additionally, during the process of obtaining a BMR rental, Jazmin decided to become an affordable-housing advocate, even providing Board of Supervisors’ public testimony in favor of MEDA’s 1296 Shotwell affordable-housing development for seniors.

Jessica was a victor of five lotteries, but was denied at one project because of too high a household income (every development has its own minimum and maximum income requirements.) Their case for Five 88 was closed, but later reopened by Romero.

Romero states, “Our Latinos families who win the lottery need support throughout the leasing process because some developers do not offer bilingual staff. Plus, families don’t always understand what additional documents are being requested by the developers.”

Jessica was also counseled by Family Success Coach Yadira Diaz at Cesar Chavez Elementary — a Mission Promise Neighborhood school — to apply for a Hamilton Families housing subsidy that covered the required first month’s rent and security deposit. Marcos and Jessica moved into Five 88 at the end of June.

“MNHC is excited and eager to continue our collaboration with MEDA, with the goal of having many more Mission Promise Neighborhood families find their secure home in San Francisco,” concludes Storey.

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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. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.

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MONTHLY ARCHIVE

Contact

Email
info@missionpromise.org
 
Phone
(866) 379-7758
 
Address
2301 Mission Street, Suite 304
San Francisco, CA 94110

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