When a parent learns their child has been diagnosed with a developmental disability or mental illness, it can be overwhelming. Oftentimes parents feel they don't know where to begin, or who to turn to for help.
A group of parents of children with special needs started ParentsCAN (PCAN) in 2005 to serve as a resource center for these families, and helped 350 of them in its first year.
Today, PCAN helps more than 900 households annually by connecting parents to services offered at 50 local partner agencies.
PCAN's staff, called advocates, work one-on-one with families to help them: determine their disabled child's eligibility for benefits; and, navigate complex systems like medical care, health insurance and public school special education.
These advocates frequently accompany parents to meetings with doctors or school administrators, which ties in with PCAN's core approach: that parents learn to advocate on behalf of their kids. To that end, PCAN also offers a parent-to-parent peer mentoring program, community symposiums held three times a year, plus a few dozen education classes and support groups. Topics include: Autism; grandparents raising special needs grandchildren; and, special education rights and responsibilities.
PCAN also has responded to clients' needs by piloting new programs. For example, when state funding for early diagnosis was slashed, the nonprofit trained staff to identify and address developmental delays in children birth to age three. An increase in the number of kids in the Valley diagnosed with ADD/ADHD also prompted PCAN to start a class on the topic.
PCAN provides all services free-of-charge (more than half of clients are low-income) and in both English and Spanish (52 percent are Latino). The agency's 20 staff members are well-versed in clients' issues--each has an immediate family member with special needs.
A few years ago, PCAN's Board invested in leadership transition planning, in anticipation of its founder's retirement. Last year, a longtime staffer that had grown into roles of increasing responsibility was named executive director. The new leadership completed a strategic plan now being implemented.
PCAN's annual budget is $955,000; 55 percent comes from government contracts, and the balance is raised through donors, fundraisers and grants.
Your support will help parents continue to advocate for their special needs children.
Napa Valley Child Advocacy Network, Incorporated (dba ParentsCAN)
1909 Jefferson Street
Napa, CA 94559
Contact: Marlena Garcia, Executive Director