Thank you for investing in our region's kids and families in 2019! As we celebrate the New Year, we hope you'll take a moment to reflect on how you helped kids and families thrive across our region.
Here are the top 5 moments you made possible:
1. CENTERING PARENT VOICE FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS
In July, United Way’s Early Learning Multnomah County Hub celebrated 5 years of the Parent Accountability Council (PAC). Early Learning Multnomah focuses on addressing the biases and barriers children of color face to ensure they have every opportunity to thrive in kindergarten and beyond. The PAC guides our early learning work, ensuring we meet the real needs of children and families while also creating an intentional avenue for parent voice.
Members from African American, African immigrant, Asian, Latino, Native American and Slavic communities came together, along with community-based partner organizations and stakeholders, to support and celebrate the incredible milestone. The celebration was held at Gateway Discovery Park and included arts and crafts, performances from diverse communities and incredible cultural foods.
“When I looked at all the communities that were represented, and the families that were there it brought tears of joy to my eyes,” says Early Learning Multnomah PAC member, Lydia Gray-Holifield. “We have come such a long way in these past five years. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it all. I am very proud and honored to be a part of this.”
ELM and PAC members are part of the Preschool for All Task Force, led by Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson. Making preschool accessible to Multnomah County’s children and families is one of the best investments we can make in our future. Members of the task force will be studying national best practices and identifying the unique needs of local children and families in order to draft a ballot initiative for fall 2020.
Read more on how PAC parents are improving early learning services for kids.
2. INCREASING GRADUATION RATES FOR KIDS OF COLOR
Five years ago, United Way and Multnomah County made an initial investment to launch Successful Families 2020. The collaborative focuses on providing academic support to students to improve their graduation rates – and connect their families to wraparound services – to ensure that kids of color and their families succeed, inside and outside of school. Students like MyLin.
When MyLin was 16, her mother slipped into several comas before undergoing surgery. Overnight, MyLin became responsible for caring her siblings and her grades plummeted. As a SF2020 co-lead located at David Douglas High School, Miki Hunnicutt reached out to MyLin. The two connected on many levels, coming from the same culture and being able to share experiences as Black women in Portland.
Miki went above and beyond to provide MyLin the support she needed to graduate – delivering MyLin’s homework if she missed class, driving her to and from school and always willing to just listen. Miki also checked in with MyLin’s family regularly, making sure they had access to resources.
Currently, SF2020 operates in 8 schools across two Portland school districts – David Douglas and Reynolds – and in partnership with Self Enhancement Inc., Native American Youth and Family Center, Latino Network, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and Metropolitan Family Service. Since its launch, we’ve seen improved outcomes for students of color and their families. This last year there was a 9% increase in graduation rates for SF2020 students, a big improvement considering that Oregon has the 4th worst graduation rate in the nation.
Learn more about MyLin’s journey and how your support helped her graduate.
3. ENSURING OREGON KIDS AND FAMILIES ARE COUNTED
United Way of the Columbia Willamette is committed to a fair and accurate census count. Many of the key safety net programs our kids and families rely on - including SNAP, school lunches, section 8 housing, Head Start and short-term rental assistance to name a few – are funded via the census data.
The Census Equity Funders Committee of Oregon (CEFCO) is raising $10M to support a Hard to Count (HTC) campaign for the one million Oregonians that are at risk of being undercounted. Communities considered hard to count include, but are not limited to, people of color, Native Americans, children under the age of 5, immigrants and people with limited English proficiency. United Way is proud to serve as the backbone organization for CEFCO, leveraging our partnerships with culturally-responsive organizations to develop the HTC training curriculum and manage the reporting.
4. EXPANDING ACCESS TO EARLY LEARNING TOOLS
Last year our Early Learning Washington County (ELWC) Hub created and distributed 2,000 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Curiosity Kits in English, Spanish, Somali and Arabic developed by community members from the four communities. Once the kits were out in the community though, ELWC's Parent Advisory Council and community partners received feedback that many parents were unsure how to use the kits with their kids since they themselves had never been taught content around STEM. This year ELWC focused on developing and rolling out a STEM Curiosity Kit framework.
The Hub organized nearly 50 workshops across Washington County as well as almost 100 home visits to Somali parents to distribute the kits and provide tools for parents to engage their children around STEM activities. ELWC also developed and held workshops specifically for childcare providers, training them on how to include STEM lessons in their daycare and preschool settings, as well as ensure STEM activities are culturally relevant. More than 50 providers participated in the 7.5 hours of training.
This year ELWC conducted family engagement surveys throughout Washington County as part of an Early Childhood Education Expansion. By partnering with community nonprofits, WIC, DHS and Head Start programs for the surveys, families identified barriers that continue to exist around childcare supports throughout the county. The data collected will be shared in a report with the Oregon Department of Education in the new year.
Read more on how ELWC has increased access to early learning programs for kids and families.
5. KEEPING KIDS AND FAMILIES HOUSED
This year we saw families continuing to struggle as housing and childcare costs continued to rise. With 1 in 3 families across our region unable to pay for basic necessities like rent and groceries and 1 in 7 children living in poverty, it remained critical for United Way to step up and continue to fund safety net services.
Thanks to your support, families like Glenn and his twin daughters were able to get out of a family shelter and into their own apartment. In fiscal year 2018-19, United Way served 381 families through direct assistant for rent and utility services and 2,873 families received short-term rent and utilities assistance through pooled funding. By helping to fund emergency assistance services, community members like you make it possible for kids to thrive and for loving parents like Glenn to focus on the health and wellbeing of their children.
See how your support helped Glenn and his family find stable housing and thrive.