Empowering Latino Families to Achieve Positive Early Educational Outcomes for their Children Utilizing "Abriendo Puertas" Strategies

Envision eliminating the education achievement gap for Latino children by recognizing the home as the1st school and parents as 1st teachers

Photo of Candace
2 0

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

Driven by the determination to strengthen services to our very needy Latino population, and with due diligence, we researched the Abriendo Puertas program which we determined would be of great benefit to supplement our NFP and PCHP continuum. In October 2014, our United Way sponsored an "east coast" training event in D.C. at which two of our administrative staffers returned fully trained in the model. They came back incredibly inspired ("blown away") and together launched the program locally.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian)
  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)
  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New Jersey

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New Jersey

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

New Brunswick, Perth Amboy, Jamesburg all in Middlesex County , New Jersey

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Poverty, substandard housing, and failing schools compounded by language barriers and citizenship issues result in the fact that far too many of our Latino youth fail to succeed in grade school, fail to graduate from the “drop-out factory” high schools they attend and are disproportionately over represented in the juvenile justice system. There is a sixty percent Latino drop out rate at our two inner city schools : Perth Amboy and New Brunswick. With increased Latino in-migration to our area, there is a strong economic imperative, impetus and advocacy for positive change.

United Way of Central Jersey, through an extensive array of direct services and supplemental program financial support to our nonprofit community partners, has prioritized the provision of early childhood services  promoting success in school and in later life. Given what we know about brain development prenatally and through the first few years of life, we have created an evidence based "stack" of intensive early childhood programs  which among others services include the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), the Parent Child Home Program (PCHP) and Abriendo Puertas, each of which serves a predominantly Latino population.  Through this initiative we propose to bring to scale our Abriendo Puertas component of the continuum enabling us through our county wide non-profit and faith based partners to reach an approximate 150 families (in groups of 15) with children (age 0-6).  The ten session program curriculum, which includes focus upon parenting education and parental empowerment, also offers content on strengthening parental capacity to strongly advocate for their children in the community and especially in pre-school and kindergarten classrooms. 

In order to increase impact, many parents participating in the program are encouraged and trained to serve as co-leaders thus enabling more widespread reach.

Notwithstanding the extraordinary success of the Abriendo Puertas program on a micro family by family basis, it is clear that a more expansive macro approach is warranted. The United Way of Central Jersey is uniquely positioned to serve as a convener, bringing together health, education, social services and other stakeholders from multi-levels of government, from the non-profit sector, from the faith based community as well from the business sector.  We anticipate that the formation of a "Champions for Children"  Advisory Board will serve to advocate for Abriendo Puertas and other services tailored to meet the needs of our Latino residents enabling them to secure a better life for themselves, for their families and for their children. .  


Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Low income Latino parents acquire knowledge and basic skills to improve the home environment for their child. The families participating in UWCJ's evidence-based programs live in community homes in poor neighborhoods in isolation from support services and unaware of their role as their child's advocate within the educational system. Thru the parents understand they are their child's first teacher, the home is the child's first school and the importance of verbal communication and reading. Specific skills acquired include: basic budgeting, nutrition, discipline, conflict resolution, health ,exercise, importance of a quality early learning center for their child and the parent's leadership role within the home by practicing family values.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Child Trends 2014 evaluation of the Abriendo Puertas program found that participants adopted parenting practices that enhanced pre-school children's learning and preparation for school. The study found that Latino parents participating in the program gained knowledge about high quality child care and education settings and improved their organizational strategies and ability to plan and set goals for their children. Parents also gained an appreciation for their role as models for their children. These practices appear to be sustained over time. Child Trends specifically identified the following behaviors and knowledge bases as successfully enhanced: parent educational activities at home (reviewing letters of the alphabet); approaches to reading with the child; library use; knowledge about aspects of quality child care; family organization and planfulness and parent role modeling.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $1mil - $5mil

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We see this as a "pilot" opportunity not only to increase our current staff capacity to serve sixty families per year by an additional one hundred -fifty, but also to increase our geographic reach to other communities in the County with high Latino populations. United Way of Central is committed to "grow" this program and if successful, will sustain this work through its own financial resourses and solicitation of corporate and foundation grants

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are programs in our area serving low income, resource deprived families, but none working exclusively with the Latino population with the intensity we deliver. The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network does provide some individual advocacy, provides training to professionals to better engage parents in various projects and does provide consultation to parent organizations. The newly formed Middlesex County Young Children's Council attempts to bring parents and service providers together to promote systems change. Thus our program is unique and is not a duplication of other services.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

We strongly believe that expansion of "evidence based" early childhood programming for the 0 -6 population, especially programs with home visitation components, are most likely to achieve immediate and long term positive outcomes. Further, these programs have established a strong economic imperative through an inherent demonstration of cost effectiveness by improving birth outcomes, reducing the incidence of child maltreatment, increasing school readiness, reducing special education costs, reducing youth involvement in the criminal justice system and increasing high school graduation rates.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kaitlyn Allen

Overall I think you have a powerful profile! You really do provide a image of what you are working towards achieving and how you are doing it. I specifically liked your answer to the problem question. You had a great way of addressing a negative topic but still putting a positive spin on it. You give merit to your work by how you chose to speak on the topic. You have a great diversity to your pictures, making this profile even stronger. The pictures have awesome effects! I do recommend you re-look at your impact question. Give some statistics, here is where you back up what you said in your problem question!

Also- You want to be a national organization, help readers imagine this taking place near them. How can you be inclusive to every environment? America is eclectic, does your initiative have the flexibility required?

View all comments