Editor's note: This is the 19th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.
By RACHAEL SEBASTIAN
Special to The Telegram
As a parent and educator, Trina Delgado knows the benefits of early intervention when working with young children.
She also knows it takes a strong relationship between the service provider and those served in order to be successful.
Her son and his provider have that relationship.
Delgado's 2-year-old son, Beau, waits by the window when he's expecting Ms. Tara, his speech and language therapist from Russell Childhood Development Center.
Beau has speech therapy sessions at home, as well as frequent hearing screenings through the agency.
Delgado said Beau isn't the only one learning from RCDC.
"Our family receives the benefit of current knowledge in the areas of health and early childhood education provided by RCDC speech and language professionals," Delgado said.
Beau is one of hundreds of children being served by Russell Child's Tiny-k program, a set of early intervention services including occupational or physical therapy, vision or hearing screenings, and much more. Services are provided at no cost to families with newborns to 3-year-old children, regardless of income levels, which is why the program relies heavily on several different sources of support.
In 2012, 279 children and families in Finney County received Tiny-k early intervention services, according to Jill Reagle, coordinator of Tiny-k early intervention.
The Tiny-k program benefits from the local United Way, with a $35,000 contribution planned for 2014. The amount is the same as last year.
"We also received $2,000 to help us match funding for our Building Blocks Project Grant, which is awarded by the Kansas Children's Cabinet and Trust Fund. Both are reapplied for and granted annually," Reagle said.
"Tiny-k services are 100 percent free to families and are provided in natural environments, which is typically a home, child-care setting, or community setting like a park, the library, or the zoo," she said.
RCDC's Tiny-k program serves Finney, Greeley, Wichita, Scott, Lane, Hamilton, Kearney, Stanton, Grant, Haskell, Morton and Stevens counties.
In addition to the Tiny-k counties, the Building Blocks Project covers Hodgeman, Meade, Gray, Ford, Clark, and Seward counties.
Funds from the United Way are directly applied to staff salaries, which support two Early Childhood special education teachers who work in Finney County, Reagle said.
"So, children and families ultimately benefit because we are able to maintain an adequate number of highly qualified professionals to handle caseload needs," she said.
The Building Blocks Project will use the United Way funds to purchase materials for the Triple P Positive Parenting Program.
Reagle said the Tiny-k program is unique. It's part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and is administered through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
RCDC's Tiny-k program is responsible for assuring the availability of identified services to eligible children and their families.
Services include: family training, counseling, special instruction, speech-language pathology, audiology, sign and cued-sign language, physical therapy, occupational therapy, service coordination, medical services, screening, health services, social work vision services, assistive technology and transportation.
Reagle said the agency takes referrals from parents, doctors, hospitals and others for their services.
"Sometimes parents just want to make sure their child is on track developmentally," Reagle said.
Reagle said the agency also receives calls from Wichita and Kansas City hospitals for children who are coming home after an early or difficult birth.
She encourages the community to support RCDC in its effort to provide services in Finney County and southwest Kansas.
"When you donate to United Way, you are investing in an effort to create lasting, positive change in our community," Reagle said. "Every donation counts, and programs that serve all ages benefit. United Way really does make a difference and provides support to agencies that benefit the entire community."
Delgado also encourages support for the agency.
"Without RCDC, our son would have a much more difficult time receiving adequate services directed to his needs," she said. "He would be at the mercy of our knowledge as parents as to what direction to turn and what professionals to contact for assistance. RCDC has led us in the direction we need to go in order to get the specialized care our son has needed.
"When you are dealing with a special need that your child has, you have to know the right questions before you can get the right answers. RCDC has helped us with both."
Delgado said RCDC is a gift available to the youngest and most vulnerable members of society who are experiencing unique needs at the most developmental time in their lives.
"RCDC empowers whole families with knowledge, resources and confidence to draw upon as they begin down a path with many untraveled roads in it," she said.
She said as a family, they look forward to the celebration of new sounds from Beau. Eventually, those sounds will form new words and then new sentences.
"We've learned to abandon timelines and instead embrace hard work and the achievement of small steps," she said. "Just as a parent's arms are outstretched to catch a baby as they learn to walk, RCDC has had their arms outstretched to us while we as a family learn the best ways to work with our son. We are extremely thankful to them for their knowledge and continued guidance. What a blessing their staff has been to our son Beau and to all of us."
The United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000, $10,000 more than last year. The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:
Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council — Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains — CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital — Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission — Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.