Partnering with and supporting Banyan families takes many different forms and Maricruz Arocho, Lead Family Advocate, has years of experience to draw on. She has walked with Banyan families for many years. Maricruz is an integral part of the Banyan admissions process and last summer she met a new family.

This new family was invited to Cool Off Days by another Banyan family living in the same apartment building. Banyan met with the family, completed interviews and their 1st and 6th grade youths were invited to participate in summer programs. As the relationship deepened and trust was formed the family approached Maricruz asking for resources for their third child diagnosed with Autism. The family felt that he had been underserved by the school and were looking for options. A referral to PACER was made.

PACER Center enhances the quality of life and expands opportunities for children, youth, and young adults with all disabilities and their families so each person can reach his or her highest potential. PACER operates on the principles of parents helping parents, supporting families, promoting a safe environment for all children, and working in collaboration with others.

After a successful summer, Banyan extended the invitation to the family to join regular after school programming in the fall. The family gratefully accepted the invitation, and they reported that Minneapolis Public Schools had taken some better steps in supporting their special needs son. They were feeling optimistic about the year.

Unfortunately, as the year went on the school situation for their son became more complicated and the family again sought advice from Banyan. Maricruz learned that the family hadn’t followed up with the PACER referral in the fall so she pursued a more active role. She personally called the PACER Family Advocate, who speaks Spanish, and asked for them to initiate a contact. Given medical privacy restrictions it is quite challenging for a third party to intercede on a parent’s behalf. Typically, first contacts need to made by the family but Maricruz knew the complexity of the family situation and the recent other health issues that had made follow-up more challenging.

Navigating the American healthcare system and social services can be very challenging for families, especially if English is not their first language. The family is still evaluating their options for their son and his siblings continue to attend after school programs. Whatever direction and decisions the parents make, Banyan Community is here to walk along side, to resource, and to encourage.