The building may look small from the outside, but the La Plata Family Center is big on the inside and especially big on the programs it offers.
Roseann McDermott, executive director, has been with the center since just before its move in 2012 from Florida Road to its current home on East 32nd Street.
“This is a great location, we do love it here,” McDermott said. “We’re close to the park, we’re close to the grocery store, we’re close to the trolley stop. But this is one location of all that we do.”
And that’s not an exaggeration: The La Plata Family Centers Coalition has programs across the region – from Pagosa Springs to Bayfield to Durango, offering everything from home visits, after-school and summer programs for kids and help with signing up for health insurance.
Pagosa SpringsThe Family Center offers two programs in Pagosa.
Started last year, Colorado Community Response works directly with families who are just under the radar for child protection services – there’s been a report, but no further services were required, McDermott said.
“This is when we step in and say, ‘Hey, what can we offer? What else do you need in your family? What are some of the things that are going on with you?’” she said.“It’s a phenomenal program.”
In addition to Colorado Community Response, there’s also the Early Childhood Education home-visitation program, where staff members try to work with families for at least two years with kids ages 0 to 5.
“The goal is to help parents with early childhood developmental knowledge, also to make sure we’re catching early developmental delays,” McDermott said. “One of the primary goals is to help kids get ready for school, so that when they’re off to kindergarten, they have great success.”
When families enter these programs, they take the lead.
“With Colorado Community Response, I think it’s important to note that when the family advocate works with the families, it’s the families identifying their goals and priorities for how they can strengthen and achieve some of the goals they have set for themselves,” said Lauren Patterson, who does program planning and evaluation for the Family Center. “The caseworker works as a resource and referral point person for them.”
McDermott said parents take the lead across the board.
“You’ll see that throughout what we do: That’s the same model we use for family support and also the same model that we have for what we do with early childhood,” she said. “Families set the goals for what they want to work on; it’s not us going in saying, ‘Hey, we think you ought to figure out this.’”
BayfieldBayfield-area families have two programs, including health care enrollment specialists and family support work, and the Bayfield after-school and summer-enrichment program.
In the summer, the program runs from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for 11 weeks.
“We try to do the educational component along with what we do with nutrition and exercise,” McDermott said.
Fort Lewis MesaAt Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary School, the Family Center has acted as a community gathering place. There, the center holds all kinds of meetings and hosts birthday parties, skating and numerous other activities.
The Family Center also has a long history of summer home visits.
“We work in conjunction with the school, and what we do is we usually take a teacher – whether it’s the kindergarten teacher, first-grade teacher – with our employee and they do home visits all summer long to families that are going to be coming into the school or have youngsters,” McDermott said. “It gets parents and kids familiar with the school, the connection between the Family Center and the school, so that they all feel a sense of connection before they’re dropped off on their first day of kindergarten.”
DurangoSeveral programs are based in the Durango office, including Access to Health Care, Early Childhood Education (which includes the Parents as Teachers home-visitation program) and Love and Logic classes. The center also offers a foster parent night out once a month.
But McDermott said the biggest and newest program the Family Center offers is called Family Support Services. When a family goes to the center looking for supplies or one kind of service, parents might find other programs that can help them in a broader way. For example, a mother might go in looking for diapers and find that her family could benefit from the home-visitation service.
“Basically, we’ve been doing some portion of family support for a long time; whether that’s somebody who comes in the door and needs diapers, food or formula or that kind of thing,” she said. “Now, we’re able to do more of a family-development model. Our model is to try to get families out of that crisis mode and into more self-reliance, so they can be in a stronger place; they don’t have to be in crisis.”
Finally, the Family Center offers help with the sometimes-confusing task of signing up for health insurance.
“A lot of families, especially in this area, are mixed-eligibility families, so maybe the kiddos are on CHP (Child Health Plan Plus), and the adults then are over-income, maybe one adult has employer-sponsored insurance, the other one doesn’t get that offering, so they go to the exchange,” said Cari Powell, director of the Access to Health Care program. “There are a lot of rules and regulations between when they can enroll, whether it’s open enrollment or a life-changing event ... it requires really close work with the county because eligibility is processed through their system.”
The mission of the Family Centers Coalition is nurturing and helping families grow, and because of this, programs are open to anybody.
“If we have the staff, we have the service,” McDermott said.