Right From The Start / Desde el Principio (RFTS)
Right From The Start/ Desde el Principio (RFTS) provides education and family support services to at-risk Spanish speaking families who are expecting a baby or who have children and live primarily Highland Park, Highwood and nearby communities.
The program aims to promote healthy family functioning, healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women, and enhance the development of children.
Intervention and prevention-based services are provided for parents, primarily mothers, who may be facing obstacles such as: cultural and languages barriers, isolation, single parenting, financial struggles, and postpartum depression.
RFTS was created in 1994. The program was created in response to the unmet needs of the growing Latino population of Highwood and Highland Park. In the beginning RFTS started with hospital visits, later on, home visits, prenatal groups and a parent education group were incorporated into the program. RFTS has grown and diversified its services by continually assessing our families’ needs and planning new strategies to help fulfill service gaps encountered by our participants.
Currently the program serves around 250 families, provides hospital visits, home visits and 14 different groups that promote the Latino families’ wellbeing. All our services are free of charge. Transportation and childcare are provided for all groups.
Pre-natal Education Groups
We provide information and support in a culturally sensitive atmosphere with a comprehensive curriculum tailored to the needs of immigrant mothers, while also promoting the involvement of faith.
We support families following delivery at Highland Park Hospital. Families are followed up with during subsequent home visitors.
Home visits are offered on a flexible schedule to accommodate individual family needs and focus on helping parents develop a healthy parent-child relationship. Family Support Workers provide families with information about child development. We also make referrals to outside community services.
Parent Education Groups
Parents are provided with information on a diverse range of topics. Included in this group we have “Family Literacy” sessions which are provided by the Highland Park Public Library. They are facilitated by a story-teller and include puppets, songs, and crafts. Clients can borrow books from our lending library. Additionally, parents have the opportunity to network with other parents and discuss issues with various speakers.
Bi-lingual Drop-In Mornings
Children enjoy developmentally appropriate playtime. These groups promote integration between children and parents of different backgrounds. Children are exposed to songs and stories in English and Spanish.
With the partnership of The Art Center we provide jewelry classes that help our moms channel their creativity, improve their self-esteem, and teach them skills that help increase their family’s income.
The summer program is in collaboration with The Highland Park Recreation Center. Right From The Start participants attend swimming classes.
English as a Second Language (ESL) and GED Classes
In collaboration with the Township High School District 113 we offer ESL classes to help our clients get acculturated to living in the United States, secure better jobs, and keep up with their school age children. This class includes a lap sit section where parents read books to their young children. We provide transportation and childcare making our ESL class unique and more accessible than others in the community. Many parents obtain their GED certificate that will help them to advance their studies.
Fitness and Nutrition Classes
Fiesta Fitness incorporates aerobic exercise with Latin music to help the mother’s burn calories, relieve tension and maintain good health.
Nutrition Classes are offered in collaboration with the University of Illinois Extension and the Lake County Health Department.
Early Childhood Group
This group is for parents to learn about subjects related to the development of their young children and to particpate in parent/child activities.
This group informs parents about preschool program options in the community and helps them prepare their children for the new experience.
In collaboration with Center Stage Academy of Dance, and with support of The Weston Foundation, Right From The Start participants take ballet classes.
School Age Children Enrichment Program
In collaboration with Oak Terrace School 1st to 3th graders are invited to join the After School Enrichment Program that integrates exercise, nutrition information, crafts and healthy snacks. Now we are adding a Math and English component to help children enhance their academic performance.
Thanks to our great volunteers and the Highwood Library we provide tutoring for children K-3 on Mondays and Wednesdays during the school year.
Information, Advocacy & Referrals
We provide our families with information and referrals to other service providers within the community and advocate on their behalf when needed.
Nora Barquín, PhD., LCSW, has supervised the RFTS program since 2002. She has a PhD in Biology, but after many years of working in medical research and volunteering at Erie Neighborhood House with the immigrant community she decided to pursue a degree in Social Work. She has a broad range of experience working with Latino immigrants in different settings and understands immigrants’ needs.
Rachel Cope joined RFTS in January 2017. She holds a Master's degree in Social Work (MSW) from Loyola University Chicago. Her areas of interest are early childhood development, nonprofit management, and migration studies. Rachel has several years of experience working with nonprofit organizations in Waukegan and abroad in Ecuador and Mexico.
Outreach Associates Sheila Fernandez is a resident of the Round Lake area with over 10 years of experience teaching ESI and Special Education at the elementary and middle school levels. She graduated from Interamerican University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a minor in Economics. In her free time, Sheila enjoys participating in community events. She is very excited about joining the Family Focus team and engaging Round Lake families in supporting their children's education.
Family Support Workers
Bertha Chávez has worked at RFTS since 1996. She was a Nurse in her native Ecuador. She trained as a doula. She has facilitated our prenatal group since 2002, and provides our clients with home visits. Throughout Bertha’s 18 years with the program she has showed unsurpassed dedication and commitment to building and maintaining relationships with our clients. She is wholeheartedly committed to all aspects of her job.
Lisa Marquez has worked at RFTS since 2005. She has a Master's Degree in Early Childhood from Roosevelt University. She has many years of experience working with bilingual children in cross-cultural settings. Lisa is a very dynamic and compassionate person who is very dedicated to the mission of RFTS.
Ana Soto has been working with RFTS since 2016. She holds a B.A. in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University. She has experience working with the Latino community. She is bilingual/bi-cultural and grew up in the Highland Park/Highwood area. Ana loves to help families by providing them with tools and resources for their children to have successful futures.
Dinora Arias has worked with the RFTS program since 2007. She has a BA in Accounting from her native country, Mexico. She is a dynamic person who helps us with the transportation of clients, as well as a great childcare giver who understands the needs of our participants’ children.
Marilú Betancourt has worked with us since 2004. She has an associate’s degree in Tourism from her native country, Mexico. Everyday she enjoys teaching and learning from the children. She is warmhearted and cares for children as if they were hers.
Our volunteers are a valuable resource. They help us with:
- Child care while parents participate in our programs
- Assist with special events
- Qualified professionals who facilitate groups
Volunteers are always welcome. Please call us at (847) 681-0890 if you have an interest in being a Right From The Start Program Volunteer
Community Partners and Agencies
The Right From The Start Program has been very fortunate to have many partnerships that enrich our program and provide our clients with more exciting opportunities. The following is an alphabetical list of our partners:
- The Art Center
- Family Services of Lake County
- Highland Park Hospital
- Highland Park Public Library
- Highland Park Recreation Center
- Open Communities
- Lake County Health Department
- Latino Policy Forum
- Moraine Township
- Oak Terrace School
- Ravinia Nursery School
- Township High School District 113
- University of Illinois Extension
- Lincoln Elementary School Service Club
- Northwood Junior High School
- Highland Park Park District
- Highwood Library
- Highwood Recreational Center