by Megan McQueen
As educators, we are resources to connect our families with community services. Many times a family member has asked me for help finding services, or I’ve noticed a space in their life where I could support a connection with local resources – if only I knew where to turn. Hopefully, this compilation will be helpful to you and your families.
Children who have access to food are better able to function at school, home, and play. Their chronic stress levels are lower than kids who are hungry. Families navigating poverty may pick up groceries, a hot meal, or fresh produce from the Oregon Food Bank. You can type in your zip code to find local food banks to share with your families. You may also print out information about SNAP and WIC for families to take with them. Families can apply for Free and Reduced Meals for their students. You may consider bringing a laptop or tablet to class to help families navigate the online forms.
Oregon is one of the most expensive states to buy a home, and rents for homes and apartments are rising. In many places, it seems there is a housing shortage. Connecting your families with housing resources can be a crucial lifeline. Home Forward connects lower-income people with housing in the greater Portland area. The Community Alliance of Tenants is an advocacy group working toward safe and affordable housing. They are actively fighting against the proposed 14.6% rent increase for Oregonians. Empower families with advocacy work to provide hope around these critical issues. Oregon Renters Rights can be a resource for legal issues surrounding housing.
The Oregon Health Plan offers health insurance to families in need. Families can also apply for child care through this application. Employment-Related Day Care is a state-subsidized program available with or without OHP enrollment. Domestic abuse is a far too prevalent reality. Resources shared in this previous post for families (in Spanish) may be helpful for you. You may consider compiling pamphlets so people can grab the information without a conversation or displaying QR codes to help families discreetly access resources.
Your local library can be a magical resource for families. I am constantly amazed at the services and connections I can make through my librarians. Reach out to your library – especially youth departments – and remind your families of these havens. Children’s librarians often have kits, games, and movies available to check out for free, in addition to books, of course. Some libraries even have programs that give free books to families to keep, such as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Many libraries in our state have forgone late fees to remove possible access barriers. Storytimes are a valuable way for young children to enjoy the library and for adults to learn songs, stories, and techniques to practice with their children. Often, there are free clubs for older kids to connect with peers.
Building solid relationships with your families may support them in many ways. Preparation and knowledge may help you feel prepared for inquiries and demonstrate that you can confidently support families. As a trusted person in their lives, you become a touchstone for resources beyond the curriculum.
Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, imparting a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.
Learn more about the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative and read our blog!