Open Doors for Multicultural Families (Open Doors or ODMF) provides culturally and linguistically relevant information, services, and programming to culturally and linguistically diverse families of persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The families we serve are often immigrants, refugees, and/or people of color. We accomplish this using a “cultural brokering” model. Our staff come from the same culture and speak the same language as the families they serve, and so are able to communicate with the family in their own language, and in a way that will make sense within their cultural context. Additionally, these staffs are knowledgeable of disability services, Special Education, and other mainstream social services, and to bridge the gap between the families we serve and the services they need. As of 2020, our bilingual/bicultural Family Support Staff provide language support in English (with cultural support for African American families), Spanish, Somali, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Amharic, and Tigrinya.
Our organization was founded in June 2009 by a diverse, passionate group of parents, professionals, and community members after more than a decade’s collaborative work. Since then we have grown to over 40 full- and part-time staff! Through over 20 languages spoken by our board and staff, we were able to provide linguistically and culturally responsive services to more than 2,000 families in 2020! The majority of these families live in South Seattle and South King County, where school districts have over 100 different languages spoken by students and their families and are immigrants or refugees.
Families being served by Open Doors receive information and referral services, as our bilingual/bicultural Family Support Specialists connect them to vital resources such as DDA, SSI, transportation, housing, and age-specific intervention programs. However, we are more than simply information and referral! Our staff helps the families to navigate the complex systems surrounding developmental disabilities and special education in their own language, so that parents may fully understand the process. This includes walking the family through applications, attending IEP meetings with them, and conducting the occasional home or site visit. We offer parent support groups in the languages of the families we serve, where parents and adults with disabilities come together to support and learn from one another. Through a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, we host educational workshops for parents in partnership with local school districts, given by professionals in the field and interpreted concurrently so parents can access important information relevant to child development, special education, and developmental disabilities.
We offer a number of cohorted programs for parents, self-advocates, and youth with disabilities. These programs provide the opportunity for the families we serve to become more knowledgeable about developmental disabilities, learn practical skills they can use in their daily lives, become leaders in our communities, and advocate and bring awareness of this diverse population to the mainstream consciousness.