February 1, 2014

The Family Treehouse

Mission Statement: The mission of the Family Treehouse is to assist in the development of healthy, happy, hearty families through health promotion, early childhood interventions, and technological training. It is an independent community resource center where substantial supportive services are provided exclusively to families who reside in Imperial County.

Advancing Health and Wellness: Parents have additional options to learning about their child’s development and participating in various interactive lessons whether the lessons are in a group setting or on an individual level. Parents gain understanding of child development through interaction with other parents and through observations of other children. Whereas some parents might rely on internet-based information; the Family Treehouse offers real live information, support, and resources. Families have access to FREE developmental screening that is not readily accessible at hospitals or clinics. We are the initial point of navigation through a system of sometimes insurmountable odds of securing early intervention services. Children have benefited from having access to a multitude of educational opportunities; planned activities, and child-directed play. For children who do not qualify for early intervention programs through local special education programs, we offer a venue for improving their development.

Description: The Family Treehouse is an independent community resource center where substantial family supportive services are provided exclusively to families with children ages 0-6. It is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in March 2000 to address issues related to maternal and child health such as child safety, breastfeeding, family functioning, and school-readiness. With a volunteer board of five members and a staff of 9, we address maternal and child health issues in a border community where resources are simply inadequate. Four staff members are assigned directly to achieve developmental outcomes under our P-POD program funded under the ICCFFC Two members are dedicated to a small pilot technology program “Family Connections” funded by the San Diego Futures Foundation. Three members provide clerical support under an in-house work training program for persons with disability or special needs which is funded by our general fund through donations and fundraising events.

Our family resource center opened its doors in 2002 much with the assistance of the Imperial County Children and Families First Commission (ICCFFC) by primarily targeting families with children who did not attend preschool; filling a much needed gap for 50% of the population. We have been successful in establishing a family resource center designed for families with children infants, toddlers, and preschool age children where ecological considerations include open spaces, playful fitness, and social stimulation. In the subsequent years, we were funded to provide trainings to hundreds of parents on topics such as parenting, nutrition, child passenger safety, kindergarten preparation, communication, discipline, health, and child development. We are not a day-care and parents must stay on site with their child(ren) which sets us apart from any other program in our county.

For the past several years, under a contract with the ICCFFC we have subscribed to a more focused approach to enhancing child health outcomes. We implemented a direct developmental surveillance and screening program and have reached over 500 families. The program included intervention activities and follow-up monitoring in an effort to show improved outcomes of development in children ages 2 months to 5.5 years which has done quite remarkably to the satisfaction of parents, delight of the children, and the amazement of the community. We have screened over 750 children for developmental delays, trained 8 agencies and 27 individuals on developmental screening and provided technical support to local pediatricians and physicians’ assistants giving families more opportunities for screening than ever before. We identified over 150 children with developmental delays and have directly advocated for early intervention services for 34 children. All children have improved and many are no longer classified with a disability; with the exception of one child who was born with a severe genetic birth defect and passed away at 8 months of age.

On a daily basis, we have provided group intervention sessions in both English and Spanish languages with over 250 children participating on a monthly basis with 40-50 children attending daily. We have also provided individual interventions to over 80 families where parents receive “tutoring” on developmental expectations and kinder preparation lessons. We have assisted parents in monitoring their child’s development and helped them navigate through the Early Intervention maze. We have also partnered with the CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates) program to provide screening, assessment, referral services for the most vulnerable children of Imperial County who are in foster care situation. The judicial system had also been requesting our assistance for screening services when children were being reunified with birth parents. We have since offered to train the Department of Social Services to improve their capacity to provide developmental screenings prior to reunification.

Although, we have become a local leader in early developmental screening, we are relied upon for a variety of early childhood and family services. For families with children who have disabilities, the Family Treehouse has quickly become a leader for supporting the work of the local therapists and case workers who are responsible for providing direct care to infants and toddlers with disabilities. We have enjoyed a more than quiet reputation for rehabilitation for the youngest of stroke victims, traumatic brain injury, and abuse. We are well-connected with those working on Parts B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. We understand the system of care; sometimes offering technical assistance to local pediatricians to ensure coordination and smooth transition into various medical and academic programs. In addition, early intervention programs have relied upon our capacity to house advancing therapies and strategies for improving developmental outcomes with respect to sensory integration, Speech/Language delays, and those who use mobility devices such as wheel chairs.

Contact Information:  Rosie Nava-Bermudez, C.H.E.S., M.P.H., 760-355-0175, | | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr

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