Morgan County Family Center: A community gem
November 30, 2020
Maria Lopez helping an individual with an application at the Morgan County Family Center. (Photo courtesy Jennifer Jaramillo Photography)
Morgan County Family Center (MCFC) offers resources to families new to the Morgan County, Colorado community as well as those who have lived there for generations. MCFC offers a safe space for folks to find resources and uncover the tools to navigate local systems. The staff is fully bilingual in English and Spanish, and uses local interpreters or a translation service to serve all members of the Morgan County community.
Nohemi Ramirez holds the MCFC printed mission near and dear to her heart. “Connecting Morgan County families with support and tools for successful living means that we have many mottos that illustrate the work that we do in the community,” said Nohemi. As an MCFC Parents as Teachers Coordinator (PAT), Nohemi discussed the commitment that MCFC staff have to develop and nurture trust, creating a culture in which families feel safe to self-reflect and set goals.
Morgan County Family Center strengthens families
When parents are well equipped with the resources, supports and coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, families win. MCFC connects families to resources and provides one-on-one family advocacy and support. MCFC also offers the concrete supports that may be needed to stabilize a family in crisis. In many cases, they are able to provide rental and utility assistance, along with connections to food, child care, and health and medical services.
At MCFC, families are connected to education resources that enable them to build a foundation to thrive. Cooking Matters empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge and confidence to make healthy, culturally appropriate and affordable meals at home. Nurturing Fatherhood offers parenting tips for Dad, and is designed to help fathers understand how important their role is in parenting. Parents Forever offers strategies to help family members adjust to the transitions after the impact of divorce, separation or custody change. Family Leadership Training Institute offers a curriculum focused on leadership development and civic engagement opportunities. The course engages families from all walks of life with the goal of building a foundation for positive social change. All classes are offered free of charge and include childcare, meals and interpretation if needed.
“Equitable access to resources and opportunities to thrive is especially essential to preventing child abuse and neglect among families in underserved communities,” said Nohemi. “Ensuring that these communities have knowledge of parenting and child development while respecting cultural differences with the end goal of keeping all kids safe would also be impactful.”
Memories of hope
Nohemi recalls a positive experience at MCFC that she now falls back on to keep her motivated on tough days. A Somali woman relocated to Morgan County and was seeking support for her children who she worried were at risk for truancy. During a conference with this mother, representatives from the school district and local nonprofits offered resources.
Rather than offering up a list of resources, the MCFC Advocate in attendance at the conference was trained to look for the strengths and challenges unique to each family and simply asked the mother what her children needed. The mother shared that her children were often hungry and needed more food and that they did not have the appropriate clothes for the Colorado winter. She also shared that her children leave their apartment daily, spending hours at their neighbors’ homes to watch TV. She wanted a television set so that she and her children could spend more quality time together at home.
The Advocate scheduled a home visit to better understand the families’ situation and to begin establishing trust. The mother shared that they lost their SNAP benefits when they moved to the community. She did not know how to reapply and was struggling to afford food for the family. The MCFC Advocate was able to help the family re-apply for SNAP benefits and connect them with other resources for food during the transition. MCFC connected the family with a local organization that provided warm coats and winter wear for all family members. The Advocate also located a used television set that was donated to the family. In follow-up visits, the Advocate met with the children who were no longer hungry, appropriately geared up for snow days and attending school regularly and the mother who was now happy and better equipped with the resources that she needed to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
“Being a PAT means meeting people where they are and delivering the appropriate services and support for those facing personal as well as systemic barriers,” said Nohemi.
“We believe that each family holds their own unique strength, power and ability to thrive. We hold as our north star, the belief that all our neighbors deserve access to the tools and opportunities to be successful in their lives regardless of race, language, citizenship status, religion, gender or income.”
-Nohemi Ramirez, Parents and Teachers Coordinator, Morgan County Family Center.
Keeping up with Morgan Family Center
MCFC just celebrated its 25th year serving Morgan County and is looking forward to growing into their next stage of service! They recently purchased a building in Brush in an effort to better reach the residents of that community. The new offices are now home to two Parent Educators (go PAT!) and three Family Advocates, as well as a small apartment that will ultimately serve as a transitional housing unit. Organizations like MCFC help families win.
The Colorado Department of Human Services CO4Kids campaign encourages all Coloradans to strengthen families and communities. If you know of an organization or individual working to strengthen Colorado families and communities that would like to be highlighted, please reach out to Dianna Robinson.
To learn about the signs of child abuse and neglect and for information about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit CO4Kids.org. Call 844-CO-4-Kids to report concerns about child abuse and neglect. If a child or teen is in immediate danger, dial 9-1-1.