By CARLOS GALLEGO
AAP staff writer
ST. PAUL (Feb. 27, 2012) — With 18 Karen “Family, Friend or Neighbors” providers attending a Shaken Baby Syndrome seminar on Monday at the Karen Organization of Minnesota.
The training organized by Think Small, a leader in early learning provider training for over 30 years. It offered valuable instruction for unlicensed “FFN” providers in prevention and care training for children.
According to Chong Vang, executive director, Karen Organization of Minnesota, having quality childcare providers in the Karen community is very important. He said this is a refugee community that not unfamiliar with to idea of having non-relatives care for their children.
Vang noted there is a need to guide parents toward what they can do to support their young children. He supports efforts to develop licensed childcare providers in the community. He also shared the Karen are committed to doing whatever they can to help their children build toward a positive future.
The Karen Organization of Minnesota is a young yet comprehensive non-profit organization. Services they offer include: a variety of social service programs, employment services, breast and cervical cancer health education, affordable housing assistance and transportation services. In collaboration with Wilder they also offer mental health services to their clients.
Another important service they provide is through agreements with the Roseville Area Schools and the St. Paul Public Schools in supporting youth. These services provide cultural and academic support to Karen youngsters.
Aside from this they provide a variety of individualized services to the communities which help them become acclimated to Minnesota. These services range from assistance in access to community services, financial management, and reading mail.
Mai Xiong, Community Outreach Coordinator at Think Small (formally Resources for Child Caring has served as the organization’s point person in working Karen community for the past two years. Mai is has worked for Think Small for more than seven years.
Mai has been effective in helping the Hmong providers work in efforts that focus on quality care. Although she has no previous experience with the Karen community she took advantage of her assets which including reaching out to the two Think Small Southeast Asian Advisory Karen Advisory and her ability to seek out input and support from those serving the Karen community.
Ms. Xiong has stated that although until recently few Karen owned their own homes, more and more are acquiring homes making it possible to become child care providers. In order to be a child care provider in addition to completing the required health, safety and child development classes, providers must own their own home or have permission from their landlord to provide care.
According to Mai most Karen live primarily the North End, Frogtown and Eastside St. Paul neighborhoods as well as Roseville. Their concentration in a relatively small area has facilitated outreach efforts to the community. She further shared that in her opinion the Karen are hungry for knowledge as course offered to them fill up quickly and are taught at capacity.
In fact, last summer 10 Karen providers attended the Ramsey County licensing orientation and she is working to help some of them through the licensing process which include a background check and home visits. Mai has been working to help providers receive the necessary trainings.
In addition to the health and safety classes According to Mai providers are also interested in improving their technology skills and understanding school readiness so they can better support the children under their care.
Mai has also connecting some of the providers to a Business Entrepreneurship program, this two-year grant for refugee childcare providers was awarded by the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to Think Small. Think Small serves as lead agency with HAP and CAPI serving as primary partners. Think Small also reaches out to other organizations such at Karen Organization of Minnesota and several Hmong charter schools in connecting with the Karen community.
The focus of this project is to assist refugee providers interested in developing family child care centers into viable self-sustaining small businesses. In addition to the Karen Think Small is also reaching out to the Bhutanese, Iraqi and Somali communities.
For more information on this innovative project contact Mai Xiong at HYPERLINK “tel:651-641-6632″651-641-6632.