Open Doors at Together Center offers services for families with special needs

Taking care of a loved one with developmental disabilities or special health care needs is not easy.

Taking care of a loved one with developmental disabilities or special health care needs is not easy.

Doing so with limited English speaking skills does not make things easier.

Open Doors for Multicultural Families, which began offering services at the Together Center in downtown Redmond (16225 N.E. 87th St.) earlier this month in suite B-9, works to bridge the gap and ensure that all families have access to the services and resources they need.

The organization’s mission is to ensure that families with members who have developmental disabilities and special health care needs have equal access to culturally and linguistically appropriate information, resources and services.

Open Doors promotes culturally competent services through community collaboration, training and partnerships, offering help in navigating social services and school systems using the languages its clients speak or through language interpretation.

Ginger Kwan, executive director and one of the organization’s founders, said they started Open Doors because in King County as well as the United States, there are not many organizations that focus on the demographic of families they serve — the minorities of the minorities of the minorities.

Kwan said within King County’s diverse population, there are more than 100 languages spoken but typically, mainstream services might have only one or two staff members who speak anything other than English.

Last year, she said they served more than 700 families, more than 2,000 people.

According to the Open Doors website, among the staff, there are 15 languages spoken. Those languages include Mandarin, Russian, German, Somali, Khmer, French, Vietnamese and Spanish. Kwan said if a family comes in who speak something other than their dozen-plus languages, they work to find volunteers or interpreters who can help.

Kwan said when there are language barriers, a disparity occurs as people do not know how to access services and the system is constantly changing as policies change.

Open Doors offers services for families with special needs members of all ages. Kwan said they have parent training and support groups, teaching parents about their rights, how to work with schools and advocate for their children and more. In addition, she said they have programs to help youth 16-20 with job readiness as well as support for families with parents and adult members with special needs. There are even services for professionals to help them better understand how to work with diverse employees.

Services are by appointment. Call (253) 216-4479 for appointments or to learn more.

Open Doors started in 2009 in Kent and Kwan said the location in Redmond is a satellite office. They also have a small office in Seattle, she said.

“We want to be in the place where (our clients) are and make it easier for them,” Kwan said about coming to Redmond. “We can bring (the services) to them.”

Open Doors board member Vivien Koo added, “We are very excited by the opportunity to expand our services to east King County, where there is such a high immigrant population and our programs are much needed. In addition, joining a campus of 20 health and human service agencies will help us quickly build partnerships and make a difference.”

The Together Center is a nonprofit multi-tenant center that was designed to lower barriers to finding help. The campus is home to 20 agencies that serve more than 25,000 people at each year.

Pam Mauk, CEO for the Together Center, said the campus’s many nonprofit agencies supported Open Doors joining them.

“We are very aware of that the immigrant communities have the same array of service needs as others,” she said. “Open Doors programs will augment other programs for immigrants and people with developmental or other special needs.”