Refugee Family Services, Inc. (RFS) (formerly Newcomers' Network)
Liaison with Partnership for Community Action (PCA) to support refugee families whose children are enrolled in PCA's Head Start early childhood education program.
The Liaison program partners Refugee Family Services with the local Head Start program. Part of the goal of the program is to bring refugee parents together with other Head Start parents.
Refugee Family Services refers refugee families to Head Start, and hires Somali and Sudanese childcare workers to work in the Head Start program. An RFS family advocate works with the referred refugee families, to help them understand the Head Start program, to teach families about child development, and to help with logistics. Refugee children are mainstreamed with other Head Start students.
This Liaison program is an outgrowth of work by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta to foster collaboration between agencies serving refugees and other newcomers, and agencies not providing specialized services to refugees.
The program uses cultural awareness activities, videos from the the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and parenting class materials.
The local Head Start program initially took 12 Sudanese and 12 Somali children, 3-4 years old. The program has since expanded to serve a multi-ethnic group of over 100 children.
Funding for this Liaison program is from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The involvement of Head Start - an established, proven program - facilitated the funding.
RFS notes that the program could benefit from increased funding for additional Family Advocates, to enroll more children and help more refugee families access mainstream early childhood education services.
The Liaison program has one full-time Family Advocate. The entire Refugee Family Services staff went to Head Start and conducted cultural sensitivity training for about 180 Head Start employees, including bus drivers, cooks and administrators.
The entire Refugee Family Services staff went to Head Start and conducted cultural sensitivity training for about 180 Head Start employees, including bus drivers, cooks and administrators.
RFS has found this Liaison program to be a good partnership in its first year. The program's goal was to enroll 20 refugee children; over 100 have been enrolled to date. Refugee childcare workers remain on the job. Parents are participating well, according to RFS.
Getting and retaining refugee childcare workers, RFS finds, is the most difficult part of the program. Other challenges include parents not having the children at the bus stop on time, parents not picking the children up on time, and families moving without notifying the program or Head Start. RFS notes that the Family Advocate has met with Head Start officials and has resolved almost all of these issues.
Over 100 refugee children have been enrolled to date. Refugee childcare workers remain on the job. Parents are participating well.
This program began in September 2002; it is still operating.