Centering Culture and Language

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Centering Culture and Language Key Learnings from Best Starts for Kids Partners July 2021

Best Starts for Kids

Key learnings from Best Starts for Kids Partners By listening to what Best Starts partners have shared with us at Cardea about program implementation and backed by evaluation data, we’ve identified five key themes critical to Best Starts partners, spanning all strategies. 1. Leading with Equity

5. Working to Transform Policies, Systems, & Environments

2. Centering Culture & Language

5 Evaluation Themes 4. Building Organizational & Community Strength

3. Supporting Communities that Thrive

In this case study series, we share stories and data from Best Starts partners that highlight these five themes. 2

Cardea analyzed stories and data shared by Best Starts for Kids partners Earlier this year, Best Starts for Kids asked Cardea to develop this series of case studies to document key learnings from across the Best Starts for Kids initiative. Best Starts grounds its work in community knowledge as well as science and research in an effort to continually reflect community needs and deepen the initiative’s impact. To support this effort, Best Starts partners regularly share stories about their work along with data, including information about who participates in Best Starts programming. Best Starts analyzes these data and stories each year to share learnings back with their partners, their communities, and the residents of King County through community conversations, publications, and the Best Starts for Kids data dashboard. This case study series features data and stories that have been shared with Best Starts since the initiative launched. Cardea also partnered with local artist, Michael B. Maine, to capture Best Starts partners in their own words. Nine partner organizations also participated in conversations this spring so we could better represent their work related to the case study themes. Although so many Best Starts partners could be highlighted in this series, these nine organizations were selected because the stories they had previously shared with Best Starts were particularly wellaligned with the themes.

Best Starts for Kids centers culture and language to ensure that all families thrive Through conversations and analysis, Cardea found that Best Starts partner organizations centered culture and language to build off the strengths of the communities they serve. By focusing on culture and language, communitybased organizations are actively creating environments where every family can thrive. With Best Starts support organizations were able to provide high levels of cultural matching of clients to providers and showed overall caregiver satisfaction with services

Partners built trust and improved community relationships through diverse staff representation linguistically and demographically Future work could continue centering language and culture to ensure that all families can thrive For more information about Best Starts for Kids please visit the 2020 Annual Report and Implementation Plan. About Best Starts for Kids

Best Starts for Kids


Best Starts for Kids

What we found

Best Starts centers culture and language by supporting community-based partners who provide culturally and linguistically aligned services and support families in navigating unfamiliar systems. With support from Best Starts, partners are able to expand their programming, service area and languages represented.

Best Starts for Kids partners’ work centering the cultures and languages of their communities actively dismantles inequities and supports the success of all children and families 7 Starts for Kids Best

Family Engagement has led to increased cultural sensitivity and cultural connection for caregivers and their families Best Starts community partners have worked to strengthen relationships between middle and high school-aged youth and their parents and caregivers. This work has focused on building protective and promotive factors, such as providing support in times of need, and increasing caregiver’s knowledge of adolescent and social emotional development goals. Best Starts partners are already seeing results. Caregivers who identify as Black and Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) report high rates of staff sensitivity to the caregivers' cultures. 95% of Black/African American caregivers and 80% of other POC caregivers rated staff's sensitivity to the caregivers' culture as "good" or "excellent” in 2019



To see more data about Family Engagement, check out the data dashboard What we found


91% of families were culturally matched with providers in 2020, and expanded programming has increased matching since 2017 Through home-based services, families with babies and young children work with home visitors — a nurse, a doula, or a trained community member — who serves as a resource for the family. Best Starts partner organizations focus on ensuring families are connected to home visitors from similar cultural and linguistic backgrounds to provide this support. The percentage of matched families has increased from the time Best Starts began in 2017, showing the tremendous work being done by partners to ensure families are receiving the best service by matching family cultural background with providers. The percentage of families matched with home visitors from their culture has increased since 2017 100%













To see more data about Home-Based Services, check out the data dashboard What we found


Culture and language matching promotes trust and builds relationships between providers and families

It’s actually very important for this program to have a home visitor from the same culture. We’re visiting people in their own home so we have to know about their traditions and values. It builds trust.

Best Starts Partner Investing Early

What we found

Increasing resource support to partners centering culture and language ensures improved outcomes for children and families of all backgrounds so that everyone can thrive Best Starts for Kids


By centering cultural and linguistic needs, Best Starts partners expand their outreach and services to ensure equitable access to programs for everyone The work of Best Starts partners has led to improved outcomes in confidence, leadership, and access to services for youth and families of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. To promote equity and support the success of all families, services and programs need to be continually adapted to center culture and language.

Best Starts for Kids partners with organizations to center culture and language, filling existing gaps by supporting culturally and linguistically responsive services.

What we found

Best Starts partners honor community practices by increasing access to services for all kids and families, no matter their culture and language background.

In the future, Best Starts partners hope to further increase outreach and engagement to create spaces for everyone to thrive and ensure all families have access.


Services that center culture and language are heavily demanded by the community

Between 2017 and 2018, the number of families served doubled...The need is there, and families are engaging more....That's all due to the support that families receive in their language.

Jennifer Stanton

Open Doors for Multicultural Families Investing Early, Sustaining the Gain

What we found

Stories of Impact

Organizations that provide services in the language and culture of the communities with which they work improves access and quality of services. Stories from Best Starts for Kids Partners: • Chinese Information and Service Center • Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Best Starts partners improve access and quality of services for all communities by centering culture and language Best Starts partners, Chinese Information and Service Center and Open Doors for Multicultural Families, shared their stories of providing culturally and linguistically responsive services to ensure that programs and supports are accessible for all families to thrive. The stories of centering culture and language from Chinese Information and Service Center and Open Doors for Multicultural Families illustrate the many ways partners support families in navigating services, understanding materials and information, and feeling comfortable in asking for assistance or support. Chinese Information and Service Center is highlighted for their work connecting families and building confidence and leadership among families to advocate for community needs. Open Doors for Multicultural Families shared their story of providing inclusive and culturally responsive programming to support families in accessing services.

Stories of impact

Best Starts for Kids


Chinese Information and Service Center builds strong connections between families and community through shared language and culture CISC


Chinese Information and Service Center supports immigrant families in King County through services in the families' language that honor the families' heritage The Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) centers culture and language in their programs and services because of their deep understanding of the importance of language access.


CISC was founded in 1972 when a group of students recognized the gaps and challenges that Chinese immigrant seniors faced in accessing services. From their initial work providing culture and language centered services to immigrant seniors, CISC has expanded their services to go beyond language and culture matching. Their work helps families navigate systems when they experience systemic barriers and provides a full array of services including home visiting, child care health consultation, developmental screening, bilingual education and more. Holistic support for a child is provided by centering culture and language, building on community strength, and leading with equity to create transformational change and promote social justice. All programming is culturally and linguistically responsive, so that all children can reach their fullest potential. Stories of impact


CISC’s Kaleidoscope Play and Learn Program pairs connection between caregivers with learning about early childhood development CISC developed and expanded programming through their partnership with Best Starts including expansion of the Kaleidoscope Play and Learn (KP&L) Program which provides an entry point for CISC to connect with families, share caregiver resources, and build resilient community in an inclusive way. Through KP&L families can build social connections and strengthen their capacity.


“Sue” is a caregiver to two grandchildren and has been participating in CISC’s KP&L program for over a year. When in-person and school programs were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic, she, like many other caregivers, felt isolated and unsure of how to care for her grandchildren in this new environment. CISC staff introduced her to their virtual KP&L where she was able to build a support network by connecting with other caregivers who speak the same language and have a similar cultural background. In addition to this network building, CISC's KP&L programming provides caregivers with hard skills in school readiness and learning milestones to support their families in growing and thriving. Stories of impact


CISC programs support connection and community building for families of all culture and language backgrounds “(I) want to let people know how important Play and Learn is, as it helps caregivers like me. Play and Learn programs provide an opportunity for my grandson to learn many skills to get ready for school and make friends. And for me, I learned about child development, how to help my grandson [as he] grows and meet other caregivers who share our values and experience together”. “Sue”

Kaleidoscope Play and Learn caregiver Investing Early


Stories of impact


Building on families’ resilience and wealth of cultural experience, CISC removes language and culture barriers to expand access to services for all families CISC provides more than a connection with culture and language, they partner with immigrant families to successfully navigate through systemic barriers, and they provide services that support the whole child and family. Through their strengths-based, holistic, culturally and linguistically responsive interventions, like KP&L, they actively dismantle inequities and support children and families in thriving. Best Starts has supported CISC in expanding programming, serving more families, and adapting to meet the families’ evolving circumstances by:


Creating and expanding more robust early learning programs such as KP&L

Connecting caregivers to culturally relevant and language matched services and programs to facilitate and streamline access

Build confidence and leadership among families to advocate for themselves and their community needs

Stories of impact


With support from Best Starts for Kids, we are able to holistically attend to all the needs of our families and to children of all ages. Rather than provide fragmented services, everything is now connected, and we are able to provide strengthened support to everybody around the child.

Hueiling Chan Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) Investing Early, Sustaining the Gain

Stories of impact

In their own words… Chinese Information and Service Center

Stories of impact


Open Doors for Multicultural Families increases accessibility for all families through cultural brokerage Open Doors for Multicultural Families


Open Doors for Multicultural Families amplifies the strengths of the culturally and linguistically diverse families they serve

Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Open Doors for Multicultural Families (Open Doors) was founded in 2009 to support culturally and linguistically diverse families with children or loved ones who have developmental and/or intellectual disabilities (DD/ID). Executive Director Ginger Kwan’s personal journey led her to found Open Doors to center the needs of those in the DD/ID community who were facing cultural and language barriers to accessing care. Open Doors directly addresses these barriers through their cultural brokerage model which matches staff with families from the same culture and language communities so staff can facilitate access and bridge the gap between families and the services they need. Open Doors approaches all families from a cultural reciprocity perspective where no one holds power over others, thus amplifying the strengths of communities being served.

Stories of impact


Open Doors increases access to support services for families to improve developmental outcomes for children over time With Best Starts funding, Open Doors is improving outcomes for children and their families by providing culturally responsive developmental screening, one-on-one family support services, parent education, and support services such as Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (also known as Birth-to-Three), positive behavior support, child development, and special education.

Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Children who have access to early support services show better development outcomes over time, making these early learning programs critical. Best Starts funding supports Open Doors to create programs like their Woven Together Project which aids families and their children in navigating services and systems earlier in life.

Stories of impact


Open Doors Woven Together Project supports families in navigating systems and actively targets inequities in access to services so that all families thrive Open Doors’ Woven Together Project helps address system navigation issues that families face when trying to access services. Open Doors found that families who have access to early support may still have difficulty navigating traditional services due to systems not being designed for them in their language, for their families’ DD/ID needs, or in way that makes sense for them culturally. The Woven Together Project monitors how families are doing and provides cultural navigation or systems navigation within existing early learning programs. Open Doors for Multicultural Families

With Best Starts support, Open Doors has filled a gap with the Woven Together Project. These early interventions are critical because they provide the tools, resources and services that children and their families need early on that they can then use throughout the rest of their lives.

Stories of impact


Open Doors serves a diverse community of families through their culturally matched staff and abundant language backgrounds to improve outcomes for their community

Through Woven Together and other programs, Open Doors was able to serve over 1,076 individuals and families from over 20 language backgrounds in 2019.

Through their services and programs, Open Doors can create lifelong impacts for family loved ones with DD/ID and support them in systems navigation. With Best Starts, Open Doors has been able to expand programming and serve more families in more languages through:

Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Building community power and leadership among families

Strengthening organizational infrastructure

Providing inclusive and culturally responsive programming

Stories of impact


Kids who have access to early intervention services have a better long-term trajectory.... What we've been able to do with BSK funding is to start supporting multicultural children and their families early in their lives, into our programs, into our organization, and I think that has been very transformational.

Faduma Mahamoud

Open Doors for Multicultural Families Investing Early, Sustaining the Gain

Stories of impact

In their own words… Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Stories of impact



Thank you

Chinese Information and Service Center

Open Doors for Multicultural Families

Connie Fung

Elias Tumuhimbise

Kaleidoscope Play & Learn Group Coordinator

Programs Manager for Aging and Disability Services

Helen Wong Kaleidoscope Play & Learn Group Supervisor

Hueiling Chan Program Director and Case Management Clinical Director

Faduma Mahamoud

Early Learning Program Manager

Jennifer Stanton

Youth Program Director

Mahado Abdi

Interim Youth Program Manager

Safio Abdi

Youth Program Manager

Cardea is a national, women of color-led organization, based in Seattle. We envision a world in which optimal health and wellbeing, equity, and justice are realities for all communities. For 50 years, we have been committed to addressing complex program, policy, and systems issues by cocreating solutions that center community strengths and wisdom.

Authors & Contributors MJ Coppock Avanthi Jayasuriya Kelsey Liu

Olivia Lutz Elizabeth Menstell Wendy Nakatsukasa-Ono Erica Wei Wu Amanda Winters

Michael B. Maine uses photography, video, and audio to work with people to find, develop, and share their stories. Rather than Michael telling their story, he provides a platform for a person to tell their own. With this process, he hopes to create pieces that are authentic, unique, and beautiful.

Organizations that center language and culture expand access to highquality support and dismantle inequities to create opportunity for all children and families to thrive

This work is made possible by Best Starts for Kids. Best Starts for Kids strengthens families and communities so that babies are born healthy, children thrive and establish a strong foundation for life, and young people grow into happy, healthy adults. Learn more at

Best Starts for Kids