Breaking Language Barriers

Veronica Benitez contacted the 2-1-1 help line to find diapers and found that United Way of Central Georgia offers a variety of family services. 

"It took me awhile to call, but when I received a response from United Way, it was just so friendly, that I felt like I had finally had someone I could turn to," explained Veronica. 

2-1-1 connects families with community resources that help them thrive. Individuals who dial 2-1-1 are connected to a trained, dual-language Contact Center agent who provides information about services and referrals to programs tailored to their needs.

Veronica and her family were connected with First Steps, a UWCG program designed to connect parents with the best community resources to keep their children safe and healthy. The mission of First Steps is to provide universal support services for all expectant parents and children from birth to age five and their families.

Through UWCG's Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, a component of First Steps, Veronica was able to receive books for her children in both English and Spanish. Available to families in Bibb, Peach, and Macon Counties, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library is a book gifting program that gifts free books to children from birth to age five.

First Steps also opens the door to a home visiting service - Parents as Teachers. Through this visiting model, a parent educator can meet parents where they live and give them advice, resources, and tips on parenting their child. Parent educators provide personalized quality services that ultimately strengthen families and prepare children for a lifetime of success. Spanish-speaking families in our region are served by a bilingual parent educator at UWCG.  

"Our community needs to see that we care about them and understand their realities. One way we do that is by having dual language parent educators who look like the communities we serve," said UWCG Parents as Teachers Supervisor, Daniel Charles.

Both First Steps and Parents as Teachers use The Basics, which are five evidence-based parenting and caregiving principles that encompass much of what experts find is important for children from birth to age three. The Basics' toolkit is available in over 10 languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. 

Families can also sign up for UWCG's Ready4K Text Messaging service to receive helpful information, encouragement, and support. To meet the diverse needs of our region, this service is available in over 10 languages. 

United Way of Central Georgia received a Community Transformation Grant from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning in 2021 to support dual language families with young children in Bibb, Crawford, Macon, and Peach counties. The goal is to increase access to high-quality early education programs for families living in rural areas of Central Georgia. 

"United Way of Central Georgia believes it is crucial to serve ALL families, which is why we are offering dual language programming as part of our birth through eight initiatives. Our early learning initiatives are aimed at ensuring caregivers know how to prepare their children for pre-K and kindergarten. We want ALL children in our community to be prepared for success in school and life," said UWCG's Early Learning Resource Manager, Lauralen Avery.

Over 1,700 families with young children received guidance and counseling through our First Steps and Parents as Teachers programs this past year. As a result, more parents will be aware of early development milestones, better parenting practices will be implemented at home, health problems will be detected early, and more children will be prepared to start school. 

Learn more about our Birth through Eight initiatives and celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month on Oct. 13, 2022, at Usher's Temple in Fort Valley, GA. Our team will be onsite to provide information about United Way's programs for families with children under 5 from 10am -12pm.