It started in 2018 as a pilot project in Winnebago County. A dream to improve kindergarten readiness by screening more infants and toddlers to determine if they are reaching important developmental milestones and identify any concerns early on. Your Community Foundation has invested more than $275,000 over five years in this dream, which continues to evolve with the 2022 launch of Help Me Grow-Fox Valley, a new support system for families.
Every family wants to give their children a strong start in life – physically, mentally, socially, and educationally. Yet, the obstacles families face in raising children can be considerable.
“As we started to screen more children, we quickly learned that the community’s support system was not well-organized. There needed to be a better way for families to access resources for their children and service providers to connect families to needed supports,” recalled First 5 Fox Valley executive director Barb Tengesdal.
Help Me Grow-Fox Valley is a centralized access point for families and providers to connect. Families are connected to family resource navigators via phone, text, chat, or email who will link them with appropriate resources. Navigators are also present at community-based offerings like Play and Learn Groups and Parent Cafés.
“The very first time I walked into the Markesan Library for the Play and Learn Group, Madyson [a family resource navigator] was the first to greet me and my two kids. She showed compassion and was so knowledgeable about resources available for my children, including for my youngest who has Down syndrome,” shared Sara Windle. “Madyson even helped with my personal struggle to find employment after a few years of being a stay-at-home mom and working on completing my degree. Within 24 hours, she had a strong list of potential employment opportunities for me, and I am forever grateful of her dedication to helping me in this process.”
There are currently nine part-time family resource navigators working together as a team, two of which are fluent in multiple languages. These navigators are employed by Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, the Early Intervention Birth to 3 Program in Winnebago and Outagamie Counties, Children’s Wisconsin, CAP Services, and other community partners.