Richland School District Families Find Support at Shafter Resource Center

Thursday April 25, 2024

The Richland Union School District, serving the small community of Shafter, is making great strides toward student success by addressing the needs of the whole child and the whole community.

Research has shown that factors outside the classroom can influence a child’s success in the classroom. For this reason, the district formed the Shafter Family Resource Center to bridge the gap between schools and the community and ultimately enhance student outcomes.

Rosa Romero, Superintendent of Richland, says the district’s mission is to strengthen families by establishing a solid foundation for student success through partnerships with the greater Shafter area.

“We heard over and over again with our families that this was really an important part of Richland,” she said. 

Some of the main goals of the Shafter Family Resource Center include improving school readiness, eliminating barriers to academic success, and promoting the welfare of children and families.

The center offers a wide range of services to address the various needs in Shafter, including food, clothing, housing, classes for parents, health care assistance, referrals for legal assistance, and much more. They host food drives, provide emergency transportation, translate for parents with a language barrier, provide classes, and connect families with resources, among other things.

Isabelle Gutierrez, Coordinator of Student and Family Services, says the center partners with several local organizations such as Kern Family Health Care, The Open Door Network, The Employee Development Department, The Department of Human Services, and Catholic Charities, to name a few. 

“It’s a matter of helping them understand that we’re not here to attack, point the finger, or pass judgment. We’re here to help in whatever way possible,” Gutierrez said. “It takes a team effort. Whatever the need is, it’ll be met.”

Romero says the resource center was initially funded through a grant under the Healthy Start program. The school district also received a planning grant under the California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP) and is applying for a Community Schools implementation grant to keep funding for the resource center.

Without continuous funding, Romero said the resource center is in danger of shutting down. However, she said the community has stepped up in a big way to help keep the program funded, including a generous donation from California State Assemblymember Dr. Jasmeet Bains, who represents the 35th district in Delano.

“It makes me proud to be in a superintendent position and be able to say, “‘We’re going to keep this program going,’” Romero said. “We’re going to find the funding.”

One of the center’s notable programs is a healthcare initiative made possible through a partnership with Kern Family Health Care. Every other Wednesday, a Kern Family representative visits the center to provide guidance on healthcare access, addressing issues such as insurance navigation and appointment coordination.

“They can answer questions, provide ID cards, set them up with the doctor, whatever their needs are,” Gutierrez said.

District health staff provide student health assessments on campus, including vision, auditory, and dental checks. Nearly 50 Richland students recently received vision care during an event at the Kern County Fairgrounds sponsored by One Sight and the Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS).

“We were so fortunate to be able to participate,” said district nurse Laurie Ross. “They did a whole vision assessment with an optometrist. And then the kids picked their frames and they made them right there.”

When district nursing staff see a child having health issues they can’t address on campus, they can send them to the resource center to get them the help they need.

“There are so many more difficult health issues that come about that need more time, and the family resource center is always helpful,” Ross said.

The team spoke of success stories where students’ loved ones have come to the resource center looking for help after losing parents. Through the center, they could apply for guardianship, find jobs, and get back on their feet. Months later, center officials say that the students and their families are thriving.

Romero says the district has seen positive student outcomes as a result of their efforts, including a reduction in chronic absenteeism.

Looking ahead, the center aims to expand its services, particularly in areas like telehealth and mental health support. Through ongoing partnerships and community engagement, the Shafter Family Resource Center continues to be a vital lifeline for Richland School District families, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed.

“We just want kids at school, we want kids to be healthy, we want our kids to feel safe,” Romero said. “This is such a needed piece of our community. It’s the heart of our district, and I am so proud to be a part of that.”

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.