“That is a question,” says Olmos, “that people don’t usually ask.”
With four young children and two intermittent jobs between Olmos and her husband, the family struggles. Over the following months Lilya Yevseyeva would help Olmos get diapers, winter coats, food and even toothpaste. Beyond easing their family’s strain, says Olmos, Yevseyeva’s help provided another less tangible asset: real trust for a person at her children’s school, someone to whom she could reveal any challenge or problem.
It’s unusual for families and students to be able to access this kind of help through a school. Earl Boyles Elementary is part of a unique pilot program predicated on a body of research showing that a child’s mental health and academic success are directly related to the well-being of the entire family. A CHW such as Yevsevyva, based full-time at Earl Boyles Elementary, empowers the school to address a family’s comprehensive health needs.
“I think of all the flyers we give out—the robocalls, the texts, trying to reach families that may otherwise be isolated from the school,” says Earl Boyles Elementary Principal Ericka Guynes. “It’s just not the same as someone coming and knocking on the door and saying ‘How can I help you?’ ‘Can I get this prescription filled for you?’ ‘Can I take you to the doctor?’”
Nearly 75 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch at Earl Boyles Elementary, and housing instability and food insecurity are also very high. With more than two dozen languages spoken in the Earl Boyles community, these health workers are a precious asset for reaching families in need.
“To be able to connect in Spanish, or Vietnamese, or Russian,” says Guynes, “it’s a high level of trust and power that we may otherwise never be able to get to.”
The purpose of this report is to demonstrate the significant power of such a program, as well as the challenges, learnings, and emerging best practices around it.