The mission of our organization, Open Doors for Multicultural Families, is to ensure that diverse families who have family members with developmental disabilities and special health care needs have equal access to culturally and linguistically appropriate information, resources, and services. We promote culturally competent services through community collaboration, training and partnerships. The organization was formed in June, 2009 by a diverse group of passionate parents of children with disabilities and professionals who care about people with disabilities and valued community volunteers after their collaborative work together for more than a decade. Since then, we have grown from one full time volunteer position to one full time and seven part-time staff who are either bilingual or multilingual. Through 20+ languages spoken by our staff and volunteer board members, we were able to provide linguistically and culturally responsive services to more than 400 families of children with disabilities in 2012, 10 times increased in the number of family we served since 2009. Majority of these immigrant and refugee families are low income, living in South Seattle and South King County where school districts have 100+ different languages spoken by their students’ families.
Over the past 4 years, Open Doors’ linguistically and culturally responsive services have been proven needed and valuable to our target population. Our quality services have resulted in many grant awards from recognizable funders, such as United Way of King County, Seattle Foundation, City of Seattle, Seattle People’s Fund, Office of Special Education Program of Federal Government and Washington State Attorney General’s Office. We sense our greatest achievement when many positive outcomes and comments come from families we serve. For example, after our recent family event held on July 13, 2013, well attended by 187 people including 40 families and 40 volunteers, a single mother, an immigrant from Bosnia, who is raising 3 children by herself, sent us an email and said (direct quote and spelling from this parent’s email):“I just want to THANK YOU for organizing grate event for our kids. Me and my kids had great time we don’t remember when we went home happier like on Saturday Thank you for everything that you do keep up with the good work.” – A.H.
Open Doors for Multicultural Families recognized the challenges that families faced on daily basis in raising their children with disabilities, particular those who are low income. Based on our inclusive and family support values, family stipends are available and program fees are waived to remove financial barriers and encourage their participation in our training and family fun events. Free onsite childcare and foods are also provided at our events. In addition, with guidance and support by our trusted bilingual Family Support Specialists, families with limited English proficiency are able to access needed services in the community to better support and advocate for their children’s special needs through our case management and system navigation support services.