Reflections on Supporting New American Parents

“When the children learn, the moms learn too.” – Nadia Mwangachuchu, Parent Educator

For this month’s Thought Leader Article, we asked several New AP Parent Educators and Parent Liaisons to share about how their work impacts refugee and immigrant parents, and what providing this programming means to New AP staff.

Atlanta is now home to thousands of amazing new American parents who have contributed in incredible ways to their communities. Parenting while learning how to navigate a new community and culture can feel overwhelming. New American Pathways has two programs designed to support parents by providing them with tools to help build their confidence as parents and help their children succeed. 

Our Parents as Teachers program is an evidence-based program for parents of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, where PAT’s mission is to provide the information, support, and encouragement that parents need to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of their lives. One of PAT’s core principles is based on the notion that parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. Our Parent Liaison program supports the parents of children enrolled in our Bright Futures after-school program. Through this program, we ensure individualized support to parents as they navigate the U.S. school system. Parents receive one on one support in understanding the school system and creating a home environment conducive to learning for their children.

When asked about the impact of their work, here’s what a few New AP Staff had to say:

The liaison program has a big impact on refugee families. After being resettled in the US, refugee families face some issues such as being in a new country, learning the American system, adjusting to society, finding employment, and the big one is the language barrier. the thing that they like the most is to find someone who can speak their language and they are not only happy but they also trust the liaison and feel like they can share everything with them. Then the New AP liaisons become like the point of contact and work as a bridge between the refugee parents and the schools by supporting them with the interpretation in different services and referring them in any service they need. I am so happy to see parents improve their skills in many ways. – Misse Basirwa, School Liaison Senior Coordinator

“I am an immigrant, so I know and understand the challenges and barriers of acclimate to life in a new country. Which is why I enjoy helping refugees and immigrants navigate life in America I did not have help when I came to the US, so I know how important it is for the families to get it. The PAT program informs and educates parents about essential and important factors about child development and family well-being. It is a resource of support, empowerment, and knowledge for families.” Hodan Mohamoud, Parent Educator

“The parent liaison program really helps families navigate the American school system as well as build relationships with their children’s teachers. The parents know they can count on the liaisons to provide any important information the school provides them and teachers know that they cant easily get ahold of a child’s parents by contacting their liaison. I really enjoy the relationships I build with my families and students.” – Sahar Moghadam, Family Support Liaison

“Educators support both the children and the parents. We support children by making sure they are ready for school: we support their parents by helping them to understand the value of early learning. Moms actually start referring other families. They may say: “I’m looking at the neighbor’s child… he does not reach the milestones as my child does. I think this child does not talk much. Maybe you can refer him to a specialist” That’s right! The actually use the skills from PAT to help identify potential delays in other children.”  Beena Dahal, Parent Educator

School liaisons work closely to clients as if they’re family. Because of the liaisons, parents don’t have to navigate the US school system alone. We provide education, referrals, and continuous school updates. Parents who are new to the country can rely on their liaisons to help them through this new and difficult process. After working closely with their liaisons, they become more independent and self-sufficient when it comes to their children’s education. We hope that our clients will continually grow in their understanding of the US school system. – Pamela Schwartz, AmeriCorps Member

“Being a liaison is rewarding in many ways, but the absolute meaningful part of my work is seeing my impact as I watch my clients (student’s) academic achievement, skills, and other life values such as self-confidence, leadership, and critical thinking is improving throughout my time together and parents are very happy about the impact and feels inclusiveness of the journey in the system via liaison service and their engagement is fruitful. So, putting smiles in the face my clients always make me happy and feels that my work is so meaningful, and I believe that I am making a difference is some one’s life!” – Kalkidan Gebreegziabher, Family Support Liaison

We are grateful for the hard work and dedication of the New AP team, who support refugee and immigrant parents in many ways!