Posted by Jon Federman

Young children face disproportionate rates of trauma exposure when compared to the rest of the population. And for immigrant families, the risks of exposure to trauma are compounded by high poverty rates, discrimination, and the threat of immigration enforcement. This places them at high need for mental health treatment while also facing barriers to seeking and obtaining appropriate services.

JF&CS hopes to reduce the disparity in access to services that exists among marginalized populations, particularly the local Latino immigrant community. This is being accomplished through the Family Resilience Network of Waltham (FRNOW), created by JF&CS as part of a $2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health services Administration (SAMHSA).

Through FRNOW, JF&CS is partnering with organizations in Waltham (see list of partners below) to support families with young children in our community. Creating a network of providers to build community-wide awareness and collaboration that meets the needs of trauma-exposed, marginalized young children and families is just the first step.

"The ultimate goal of the program," explains Karen Garber of the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support, "is to bolster the health of the Waltham community as a whole – its providers and families – through a combination of direct service, trainings and learning communities, and bringing resources from across the nation and world to Waltham. This includes building the competence of other Waltham agencies by sharing our expertise in trauma-informed, culturally-attuned treatment.

"There has been a lot of enthusiasm for the program," adds Garber, who was born in Venezuela. "Especially about having a place where we can address the issues that non-English speaking people have in Waltham."

FRNOW meets every other month to discuss everything from immigration issues to child care concerns. "We've had an immigration lawyer address the rights of immigrant families, as well as a number of child care agencies who came together to discuss how families in Waltham could gain access to quality, affordable child care," says Garber. "We've also had an attorney speak about how these families can navigate public benefits and other resources available to immigrant families."

Most recently, FRNOW invited a number of first responders from Waltham, including representatives from the Police and Fire Departments, as well as EMT's and ambulance services, to speak at its bi-monthly meeting. "An interesting conversation followed regarding what social service agencies see as the role of first responders, what the first responders understand as their responsibility, and what their intentions are when they come to someone's home. Interestingly, they're not always the same," Garber points out. "It was a learning experience for everyone involved."

In May, FRNOW will meet again to discuss the issue of domestic violence in the community. Journey to Safety, the JF&CS response to domestic abuse, will be present, along with representatives from REACH Beyond Domestic Violence and the Waltham Police Department, in order to combine forces and become more powerful and more efficient in addressing domestic abuse in the Waltham immigrant community.

"Through FRNOW, there is now a lot more collaboration," Garber remarks. "We feel better connected to other programs and understand what services are available for families and in turn, our families are better served.

"It's very exciting to have an exclusive program just for the Waltham community. We have a responsibility for our neighbors. Once you realize there's a need, it's hard to ignore it."

Family Resilience Network of Waltham Members/Partners
Charles River Health Center
Waltham Public schools
Charles River Early Intervention
Waltham Partnership for Youth
Waltham Family School
Family Access
Communities United
Department of Children and Families
REACH Beyond Domestic Violencerea
Head Start
Edinburg Center
Waltham Police
Waltham Housing Authority
Brandeis University
Boston University
Boston Medical Center