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Community Corner—Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Community Corner highlights the work of Seattle Human Services’ community partners in their own words. Our goal is to gather stories and photos that illustrate their amazing work on behalf of the people of Seattle. This post highlights Open Doors for Multicultural Families.

What is the role your organization fulfills in your community?

The mission of Open Doors for Multicultural Families is to partner and engage with culturally and linguistically diverse individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families to navigate services, provide specialized programming, and advocate for systems change. We do this through a cultural brokerage model where clients are paired with a direct support staff who is reflective of their language and culture.

Our 60+ staff members collectively speak over 20 languages. We provide assistance in multiple languages and ensure that cultural differences are respected and understood, making it easier for families from diverse backgrounds to access the services they need. This is done through partnership and collaboration with schools, healthcare providers, community organizations, and governmental agencies. In addition, we create opportunities for families to connect with one another, share experiences, and build a supportive community network through parent support group meetings, workshops, and other community-building events.

How does your partnership with Seattle Human Services (HSD) assist you in that role?

Our partnership with Seattle Human Services (HSD) significantly enhances our ability to fulfill our role in the community by providing crucial funding, training, and additional support. This collaboration allows us to assist our clients more effectively in the following ways:

  • Funding: Financial support from HSD enables us to operate our programs and services, ensuring we can reach even more individuals and families in the community. This funding helps cover operational costs, program development, and direct assistance to our clients.
  • Training: HSD provides specialized training for our staff, equipping them with the latest knowledge and skills to better support our clients. This includes training on best practices, new regulations, and innovative approaches to service delivery.

What is your organization’s origin story?

Ginger Kwan, ODMF’s Executive Director, started ODMF in 2009, informed by her own experiences navigating a system that wasn’t designed for families like hers. Ginger is the parent of a son who has autism and her experience trying to access necessary services and support for her son as an immigrant from Taiwan and as a person for whom English is a second language inspired the formation of ODMF. ODMF began as a group of parents helping others with shared lived experiences and this model continues.

How has your organization grown or developed in recent years?

In the last several years, we have scaled up our programs and services to meet the needs of the community, growing to a team of 60+ staff members, and providing a comprehensive, lifespan approach to our service delivery. The next phase of our growth is the completion of the Multicultural Village by 2027, which will create a thriving community of belonging in South King County. Open Doors is partnering with Mercy Housing Northwest to design and build this inclusive, affordable rental, residential housing community centered on the needs of multicultural individuals with disabilities and their families. Fully accessible and incorporating universal design principles, the Multicultural Village will provide over 200 affordable apartment homes with 20% of units set aside and specifically designed for residents with IDD, their families, and caregivers.

Within the Multicultural Village there will be a co-located inclusive Early Learning Center and a Family Resource Center, a multi-purpose community space that will house Open Doors’ programs and services. The Family Resource Center will provide a physical space of community and belonging within the Village, bringing together residents and the larger community to participate in programs, and activities, engage in social connection and connect with resources. It will also reduce isolation and break down barriers for people with IDD.

Why is it important for HSD and City of Seattle taxpayers to invest in community-led work?

Investing in community-led work is crucial because it fosters sustainable community development and empowers local residents to address their own needs effectively. By supporting initiatives driven by the community, the City of Seattle and its taxpayers can ensure that resources are allocated where they are most needed and that solutions are tailored to the unique challenges and strengths of each community. This approach promotes inclusivity and maximizes the impact of public funds by leveraging local knowledge and grassroots networks. Ultimately, investing in community-led work yields long-term benefits by creating resilient, thriving neighborhoods and communities where residents are actively engaged in shaping their futures.

How do your programs and services help to reduce the disparities experienced by people of color living in our region?

In King County, our programs and services help to reduce the disparities experienced by people of color through targeted, culturally responsive initiatives designed to address the unique challenges faced by these communities. Here’s how we achieve this:

  • Culturally Competent Services: Practicing our cultural brokerage model, we provide services that respect and integrate the cultural backgrounds and languages of people of color. By offering support in multiple languages and employing a diverse staff, we ensure effective communication and build trust within the communities we serve including new immigrants.
  • Advocacy and Empowerment: We advocate for people of color with disabilities to address systemic barriers and promote equitable treatment. Through education and training, we also empower individuals and families to advocate for their rights and make informed decisions about their care and services.
  • Community Engagement and Support: We organize caregiver support groups and inform clients of local events we may host or hosted by other organizations that foster a sense of belonging and provide a support network. These initiatives help reduce isolation and create a strong, supportive community environment.
  • Targeted Programs: Our programs are specifically designed to address the distinct needs of people of color and disabilities. This includes workshops on navigating systemic barriers, collaborating with our Advocacy & Civic Engagement Team for advocacy and leadership training for families, mental health services, and assistance with accessing public benefits and resources.
  • Collaboration with Other Organizations: We partner with other community organizations, government agencies, and service providers to create a coordinated and comprehensive approach to reducing disparities. This collaboration ensures that services are holistic and that efforts are unified and efficient.
  • Outcome Measurement and Improvement: We continuously assess the impact of our programs on reducing disparities and use this data to refine and improve our services. By focusing on measurable outcomes, we ensure that our initiatives are effective and responsive to the needs of people of color with disabilities in King County.

Through these efforts, we work to create a more equitable environment in King County, ensuring that people of color with disabilities have the opportunities and support they need to thrive.

Tell us an example of how an HSD-funded program or service impacted the life of one of your community members?

Through our Aging and Disability Services (ADS) program, we were able to assist a low-income, undocumented family with an urgent need. The father of the family, the family’s main provider, had an accident, fell, and was left paralyzed and without government support or assistance due to his legal status. The ADS program manager met with the client’s wife at the hospital and learned that the family was losing hope.

ODMF was able to utilize available funding to obtain the necessary support that the caregiver needed for her husband. We were able to provide the family with needed medical supplies, diapers, air conditioners, and hospital beds. In addition, we were able to pair the family with an ADS case manager to continue working with the family. This material assistance and longer-term case management enabled the father to return home to be with his family, after several months of remaining in the hospital.

What motivates your staff or keeps you going?

Staff members at Open Doors for Multicultural Families are deeply motivated by a shared commitment to helping others. Despite coming from different cultural backgrounds, we are united by our passion for making a positive impact in the lives of those we serve. Our common goal of supporting diverse individuals with disabilities, the elderly, and their families drives us to work tirelessly. Knowing that our efforts can significantly improve the quality of life for the individuals and families we work with inspires us daily.

Our staff members’ diverse cultural backgrounds enrich our work environment and enhance our ability to connect with and understand the unique needs of the communities we serve. This diversity strengthens our team and improves our service delivery. Witnessing the positive outcomes of our efforts—whether it’s a family successfully navigating the services they need, or an individual gaining access to critical support—provides immense satisfaction and motivation.

The work we do offers ongoing opportunities for learning and growth. Staying informed about the latest resources, best practices, and cultural competencies helps us serve our clients better and keeps us engaged and motivated. We uplift each other, share successes, and collaborate to overcome challenges, making our workplace a source of inspiration. Together, these factors create a strong foundation of motivation and dedication, enabling us to continue our important work with passion and resilience.