Promoting Equitable Access to Language Services for Families of CYSHCN (PEALS)

Project Leadership

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Annie Peña

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I’m Annie Peña-Pérez. I was born and raised in Mexico. I moved to Indiana in 2004. I have two beautiful children. I had worked as a Medical Assistant for 3 years. I’m a Bi-Lingual Resource Specialist in a non-profit organization for the past 4 years. I started in a young age being part and serve my community. I’m excited to be working with this amazing program. I can’t wait to share all my experience and knowledge with all the families.

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Aurora GrantWingate

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I am excited to join the PEALS project to share what I have learned from community health workers across the country about the need for language accessibility and access to resources in diverse languages. I grew up in a small farming town in Western Massachusetts and now live in the greater Boston area. Many of my family members work in nonprofits and/or direct service delivery and their commitment to improving access and the lives of our communities inspired my own career. I had the honor of joining the National Association of Community Health Workers (NACHW) in October 2020 as their Member and Partner Engagement Associate as one of NACHW first three staff members. Throughout my time at NACHW, I have overseen the development and growth of NACHW’s COVID-19 portfolio including NACHW’s partnerships with the Vaccine Equity Cooperative, The National COVID-19 Resiliency Network, and The Community Based Workforce Alliance.

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Christina Boothby

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Christina Boothby is the Senior Director, Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) Initiatives at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In this role, she directs a large portfolio of national programs designed to support children and youth with special health care needs with a focus on systems of service improvement, family-centered care, and promotion of access to a quality medical home. She guides strategy development and oversees the implementation and evaluation of initiatives related to children with medical complexity, disabilities, and chronic medical conditions. Christina has a Master of Public Affairs with concentrations in Nonprofit Management and Public Policy Analysis from Indiana University. She enjoys going on long walks with her husband and two dogs and visiting a different national park every year. Christina is excited to learn from the experience of other PAC members and to partner with Family Voices to build capacity among pediatric clinicians to better support families of CYSHCN with limited English proficiency.

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Danna Summers

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My name is Danna Summers. I’m a Russian-speaking Asian psychologist.

I’m special needs mom of two wonderful bright, funny, and caring kids. I’m a WSA Parent Ambassador Alumni and council member of Early Support for Infants and Toddlers of Washington State. I’m IEP Parent Partner through ARC of King County. My family is my husband Brett, my daughter Jacquelyn, my son Johnny, my father-in-law John and our cat Evy. I’m quite protective of my family because of their complex medical, educational, and mental health needs.

I’m very excited that I can help families and make changes in their life. I love kids and believe that they deserve equal opportunities. It’s so painful to see how non-English speaking immigrant parents struggle daily to give everything to their kids. Language is key to culture, beliefs, and roots.

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Doris A. Maldonado Mendez

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Doris is a first-generation Latine born with disabilities. She is a medically complex certified foster and adoptive mother of thriving children with disabilities, employed by Parents Available to Help (PATH) CT as the Statewide Bilingual Health Information Specialist, Certified Community Health Worker and Public Policy Liaison with BA Degrees in International Relations; Spanish Language, Literature and Linguistics; Political Science and a Master’s in Education after successfully presenting her Academic Research in Multisensory Universal Design for Learning in Foreign Language Education.  Doris has completed Partners in Policymaking, UCEDD Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities, Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities ECHO, AIMH Infant and Toddler Mental Health for Early Care and Education Providers and Family Child Care Providers (Spanish), Youth Mental Health First Aid, NAMI Family to Family (Spanish), National NAMI SMARTS Advocacy, Question, Persuade & Refer Gatekeeper, DV Court Advocate (Spanish), Juvenile Justice Trauma.  She has dedicated decades to amplifying the voices as a trusted messenger for the marginalized and has served (past/present) as founder of the National Alpha Sigma Omega Latina Sorority, Inc., founding member and first Latine President of the Special Education Parent Teacher Association; first Latine Chair of the CT Council on Developmental Disabilities; Keep the Promise Coalition; USH Accessibility & Inclusion Ministry Chair, Children in Placement Guardian ad Litem, Annie C Foundation, Connecticut Children’s Family Advisory Council & Behavioral Team, DDS North Central Leader for Lifecourse Cultural & Linguistic Ambassador, CSDE Bureau of Education Special Education State Advisory Council, Yale PRCH Latino Colectivo, CT Family First Prevention Community Team, CT 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, CT Emergency Support Function (ESF) #15 (Public Information and External Affairs) Diverse Communities & Disabilities Task Forces, Police Accountability Task Force- Improving Interactions With the Disability Community,  Family Voices Cultural Responsiveness Committee, HUSKY 4 Immigrants Research Committee, CAFAF Bilingual Trainer, Got Transition! Cultural Responsiveness, CDC Child Growth Development App (Spanish) & Crisis Standards of Care Advisory Council

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Giannina López

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Giannina López lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. She was a LEND trainee with Indiana University in 2013-2014 and a LEND trainee with the University of Iowa in 2018-2019. Her interests are related to early childhood, early intervention, and child development.

She is the coordinator for the Puerto Rico Family-to-Family Center since 2018.   Her most important role is being the proud mother to a 6-year-old boy and a year and 8-month-old girl.

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Jingwen Niu

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My name is Jingwen Niu, currently a neuroscientist working in the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. I graduated from the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing), where I got my Ph.D. with a major in Cell and Developmental Biology.

I am also a 40-year-old Mom of two boys whose ages are 7 and 4. My older son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disease when he was 4 years old. My husband and I were both born and grow up in China and we speak both Mandarin Chinese and English. We mainly speak Mandarin at home and our kids are usually in a bilingual environment. We experienced the challenges of their language skills in terms of receptive and expressive English at a certain stage, especially my older son. We also have bilingual families that have kids with special needs in our neighborhood, and I feel the difficulties they encountered. Thus, I am very excited to have this opportunity to participate PEALS so I could share my opinions and those from similar families in order to better solve the issue and help us and ourselves.

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Kristin Nordness

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Kristin Nordness is the Business Operations Manager for Patient Amenities and Family Services at Children’s Wisconsin (CW) and also holds the title of LEP Officer for Civil Rights Compliance for the organization. Kristin has managed the Language Services program for the past 15 years and has regulatory responsibilities related to The Joint Commission in collaboration with the Chief Compliance Officer. She has been with Children’s for almost 25 years and in her current role for 15. Kristin has been instrumental in improving access to language support for families by leveraging technology and contract partnerships. She has also increased the quality of service and reduced the overall cost of language support within CW. In addition to the Language Services program, Kristin has been responsible for managing Patient Relations (all system-wide complaints), our Children’s Ambassador team (Welcome Centers and internal patient transport), and Accommodations. Kristin has over 30 years of leadership experience in various industries including health care, human resources, banking, and temporary help. Kristin has an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management, Chicago, IL, and received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Bethel University, St. Paul, MN.

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Lynda Kazairwe

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Families of Children with Special Health Care needs are thrust into navigating so much simultaneously often with no prior training or preparation. It can be overwhelming and yet critical as it is time sensitive. Some families often find communication frustrating as they must also navigate language barriers.  I am excited to be part of efforts to bring much needed hope to families through improving their access to language services. I am always happy and honored to participate in efforts to improve the quality of health care for children and as a caregiver myself appreciate the importance of empowering caregivers.

I have three excellent sons all thriving despite one living with special health care needs. My family continues to learn ways to advocate for our son and appreciate the difficulties faced by people with diverse backgrounds. I believe that we can empower families to move from simply surviving to thrive.  I have been fortunate to get training as Partners in Policy Making (UConn) Graduate, and several other pieces of training and opportunities and Parent Advisory under Family Voices. I am a lawyer and human resource practitioner. I love to dance, take long walks, read, cook, laugh, and meet new people.

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Oanh Bui

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Oanh is a proud mother of a 19 year old daughter with genetic disorder, autism who communicates with AAC. Oanh is a bilingual bicultural Vietnamese immigrant. She has been a cultural broker for the Vietnamese families of children and youth with disabilities in Massachusetts. She founded the Circle of Vietnamese parents, where she can connect her Vietnamese fellow country parents together for emotional support and share resources; and where Vietnamese parents can be well-informed about the different system of care through weekly bilingual bicultural educational trainings via zoom and Facebook live. Oanh collaborates closely with different stakeholders in the state for system change that can advance equity in educational, medical, social, and recreational systems for families from culturally linguistically diverse backgrounds. Oanh has advocated tirelessly for language access to ensure that families whose English is not their first language can make informed decision based on materials that they can read and understand.

Oanh was a Diversity Leadership Fellow with the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston’s University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, a LEND Fellow (Leadership and Education in Neuro-Developmental Disabilities) at the Shriver Center, University of Massachusetts Medical School and a FORD scholar through Heller School, Brandeis University. Oanh holds two Master Degrees in Health Administration and Sustainable International Development.

Oanh was recognized by the Federation for Children with Special Needs with the Patricia Blake Advocacy Award for her tireless advocacy for the Vietnamese community and her previous work at the Federation. She was nominated for the Beacon for Inclusion Award from the Institute for Community Inclusion, UMASS Boston for her tirely advocacy for diverse families. Oanh received the 2019 Champion Award from the Autism Insurance Resource Center (AIRC), part of the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, in recognition of her commitment to her community.

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Parvaneh Alavi

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My name is Patty, an Iranian woman who immigrated to the United States of America about 18 years ago. I came to the U.S. when I was in my late 20s and barely spoke English. Although I had my graduate degree in Clinical Psychology, limited English wouldn’t allow me to utilize my skills and training.  Therefore, I decided to learn English and enhance my training by going back to school and earning another degree by obtaining my MPH (Master of Public Health) with a concentration in epidemiology back in 2015.  My professional career took off when my English started improving by holding positions in department stores, accounting, and banking until I found myself passionate about helping communities, especially low-income families and their children.  Currently, I am working at the local and state levels providing services to minority children and youth mainly at a professional level.  In addition, I am managing a few programs at a county level by providing support and health services to the youth and their families.

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Our Vision

With families at the center of health care, all children and youth reach their full potential and health disparities are eliminated.

Our Mission

Family Voices is a national organization and grassroots network of families and friends of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities that promotes partnership with families—including those of cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity—in order to improve health care services and policies for children.

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