Stepping up for Families During Covid

Abriendo Puertas started by stopping to listen.

7 min read

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Before Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors (AP-OD) launched in 2007, staff took the time to listen to the needs of Latino families they were planning to serve. “Meeting needs requires deep listening,” says Adrián Pedroza, AP-OD’s National Director of Strategic Partnerships. When the global Covid-19 pandemic struck last year, forcing parents to navigate new routines and remote learning, AP-OD remembered how they began. The team knew that to make the most impact in its Covid response, they needed to start by stopping to listen.

To establish its Covid strategy, the AP-OD team conducted a series of interviews with families and partners to learn the best ways to support parents with young children. In June of 2020, AP-OD partnered with Latino Parent Decisions to conduct a survey to identify challenges and parent-led solutions in areas including education, economics, and health security.

Pedroza says the AP-OD model works not just because families trust AP-OD, but because they build trust with each other. “They’ve been together for hours over a semester discussing parenting—all the challenges and headaches that come with it—but also the joys, successes, and all the laughter,” Pedroza says.

“It’s really not about us. It’s really about the community that’s built. Our approach and facilitation that allows it to happen.”

Adrián Pedroza, AP-OD’s National Director of Strategic Partnerships

To date, AP-OD has scaled early childhood programming to reach 38 states and more than 115,000 families. AP-OD’s two-generation lets parents shine as change agents—and their child’s most important teacher. Parents gather for ten sessions to equip kids with life skills as they grow. Participants connect in a small group and learn from a parent facilitator about a range of additional topics, including early childhood, cognitive and social and emotional development, civic engagement, and school readiness. Bezos Family Foundation is partnering with AP-OD to support training institutes, curriculum updates, and most recently the organization’s Covid response.

Feedback shared in the June 2020 survey allowed the team to develop specific resources to support community members in response to challenges families indicated in survey responses. “The impact on families cannot be understated, because we know the pandemic impacts learning, emotional wellbeing, and the stress level that families are feeling at home,” Pedroza says. “We’re taking the listening we did at the start of this pandemic and building solutions based on what families offered.”

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To provide essential pandemic information, AP-OD rolled out a series of Facebook Live conversations, reaching more than 158,000 participants. Parents were specifically concerned about the health of their children, and how the pandemic would impact their education. “Families were immediately thrown into having children at home, doing remote learning, and at the same time dealing with a fear of this pandemic and the economic stressors that came,” Pedroza says.

AP-OD also created a COVID resource guide that has been used by more than 167,500 parents in the United States and Latin America. Additional popular resources include infographics and a bi-lingual series of videos answering questions, including “What does ‘community spread’ mean?,” “How can parents support their children during these challenging times?,” and “How do families create healthy routines during quarantine?”

AP-OD continues to serve as a hub to provide support for Latino families impacted economically by the pandemic. The team notes a mother of six children who attended a parent training session in Los Angeles. When her husband was laid off as a result of the pandemic, AP-OD showed her where to find an application for Covid relief funds and supported her through the application process.

“We knew going into the pandemic that essential workers, who continue to work outside of their home, were more likely to be people of color, and that Latino parents and families were the more likely to be first responders, food service workers, and working and the hospital,” Pedroza says. “More Latino families are out there, continuing to work, and feeling fear of the consequences of the pandemic more so than the general population.”

Throughout this changing time, the AP-OD team remains focused on building a stronger, more equitable early childhood education opportunities while providing additional support to serve Latino families. “This pandemic has exposed inequities and disparities that can only be addressed through listening, but also through investing in the leadership of our community,” Pedroza says. As a result, AP-OD is pressing forward with a policy recommendation report based on family needs to government on the local and national level.

This pandemic has exposed inequities and disparities that can only be addressed through listening, but also through investing in the leadership of our community,

Adrián Pedroza, AP-OD’s National Director of Strategic Partnerships

Applying their unique posture of both listening and taking action, AP-OD is exploring additional ways to come alongside parents with additional concrete needs for their kids, including tutoring and broadband access to support remote learning. AP-OD curriculum is currently being translated into several languages for communities implementing the training and engagement strategies, including Somali, Vietnamese, and Mandarin.

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