Here at SVP Portland, we are committed to investing in organizations that make the clear, recognizable and life-changing impact on the individuals in our community who are underserved in mainstream family support systems. The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) is one of those Organizations. We invested in IRCO in February of 2017. Their Children Programs focus on early childhood development (ages 0-5), provide skill-building activities, developmental health screenings, kindergarten readiness and transition, and referrals to community resources through home visits and linguistically specific parent education classes. For more on how IRCO serves our Ready for Kindergarten Goal, read more here. IRCO impacts families in a real, tangible way; preparing and priming the children in the immigrant community for success in their school years.
When Anna, a Latina immigrant, started receiving weekly parenting support from IRCO’s Children’s Department in 2015, she and her 2-year-old son Oscar were homeless and living in a shelter after running away from Oscar’s violent father. An IRCO bilingual-bicultural family advocate began supporting Anna to help her heal from trauma and depression and encouraged her to start having home visits outside the shelter. Anna and Oscar left the shelter one month later when IRCO’s Family Department found her an apartment—and paid her rent for one year. Her family advocate continued to visit, bringing diapers and food and connecting her to IRCO’s energy assistance program to help pay her electric bill.
Anna began to feel safe and happy in her new home, but she was still struggling to raise Oscar on her own. One of Anna’s goals was to spend quality time with her son and learn how to play with him, which she achieved with the support of her family advocate who taught her positive play strategies and the importance of reading. Before enrolling in IRCO’s programs Anna had never read to Oscar. Now, she reads to him every night—and Oscar is the one who reminds her that it’s time to read. IRCO was able to connect Anna and Oscar with numerous resources beyond parenting and early childhood support. Anna achieved another one of her goals while participating in IRCO’s programs: she found a full-time job and is thrilled to have an income to support her family.
“I was so happy to receive home visits, support, and encouragement from my family advocate,” Anna said. Most of all, she is proud of creating a good relationship with her son, who is now 4 ½ years old and learning the alphabet. Anna practices with him every day, teaching him the skills he needs to begin reading and succeed in kindergarten. Unfortunately, Oscar is on a waiting list for the Head Start program, which he may not get into before kindergarten. A culturally specific preschool like the one SVP is helping IRCO develop* is exactly what kids like Oscar, who face unique cultural barriers, need to start out on a path of academic success.
*One of the grants we have given to IRCO is being used to research and analyze the needs and the possibility of creating a culturally specific early preschool.
✝Names have been changed in this story to protect the mother and son.