We know that life tragedies can and do happen. There’s an unexpected change in employment, a serious medical diagnosis or the loss of a spouse. These are things that can irrevocably alter one’s circumstances. Especially if no support is available.
But in Vancouver Public Schools, support comes in the form of our 18 Family-Community Resource Centers that help families who encounter a variety of challenges. A mobile FCRC, which earned a Grand Prize Magna Award from the National School Boards Association, assists schools that don’t have onsite FCRCs, freeing other staff members to focus on education.
No matter the cause or severity of a situation that causes someone to seek out an FCRC coordinator, it impacts learning. Mobile FCRC Coordinator Nicole Loran-Graham explains:
“When families go into crisis and need to go into a shelter, or lose their apartments, it becomes really hard for kids at school. Really hard. We see a lot of absenteeism, behavior changes for kids. They’re in crisis.”
“Kids are stressed through the situation just as much as parents are. There’s a lot of research on how stress affects the brain, especially growing brains. That’s hard. That’s very hard. And it can cause all kinds of results in the classroom.”
When families are at their most vulnerable, it’s important for us to be responsive and respectful.
“When families come in, they are very open; they’re very trusting. That is surprising especially because families, they’re telling a stranger about some of their most private, hardest times. And that takes a lot of trust.”
The demand for FCRC services is great. A recent survey found that food, housing, behavioral and mental health services, hygiene items and clothing are among the top needs at every VPS school. FCRCs help provide those things. But they also focus on ways to empower families through parenting classes, English classes, job assistance, early childhood education and GED preparation, to name just a few. Families can thrive with the right supports:
“The families I work with, they’re resilient beyond all belief. They don’t give up. They talk to me about situations and I’m blown away by what they are encountering. And they’re positive, they’re still positive. They are trying to figure out, how do we make it? What do we do? What is the next step? And that is humbling to watch and to see happen.”
Thankfully, we’re not doing this alone. Hundreds of community partners, including nonprofits, the faith community and other service organizations, step up to provide donations and services. This is a community that cares about people.
“When I turn around and ask community partners, this is the need, there’s almost always an overwhelming response of, ‘How can we help?’”
As part of the VPS strategic plan, this district has committed to growing our FCRC network over the past nine years. Because this work is vital to learning, we’ll continue that commitment in the future so that we can enhance our ability to meet families’ needs. They deserve it.