Project Name
The Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative (RJI)

Type of practice
Emerging practice

Area(s) of Emphasis 
Early Intervention and Education
Formal and informal community supports
Quality Assurance and training in self-advocacy, leadership, and self-determination

Project/activity year(s)

Population of focus
People with intellectual and developmental disabilities
Families of people with ID/DD
Caregivers of people with ID/DD
Service Providers
Unserved and underserved (by Racial and ethnic minority backgrounds)
Unserved and underserved (by language access (English as a second language)

Strategies Used
Technical Assistance
Supporting and Educating Communities
Interagency Collaboration and Coordination

Project Description
The Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative is led by the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) and funded by the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC). The initiative is the first of its kind in the nation and supports immigrants with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families by connecting them with service providers across the state to help them overcome challenges that may hinder their ability to thrive.

Impact (or impact-to-date) of the project/activity for people with ID/DD and their families
The Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative has positively impacted people with IDD and their families through the following work:

• Assisting new Americans with IDD and their families in connecting with needed resources, information, and services through outreach and community engagement, with a focus on language access.
• Increasing the capacity of ONA’s partners to work with and serve new Americans with IDD and their families through targeted outreach and trainings on accessing IDD services in New York State.
• Developing and distributing translated resources to new Americans with IDD and their families through community engagement events.
• Creating and distributing over 1,000 copies of “Voyage” a free, multi-lingual resource book to help new American families with young children identify disabilities and get help early.
• Delivering trainings on the identification and prevention of human trafficking of new Americans with IDD.
• Tracking and responding to the needs identified by new Americans, ONA community partners, service providers, and individuals with disabilities.
• Sharing strategies, practices, and lessons learned with key stakeholders.

Story perspective
Partner [person or organization with an interest or concern about ID/DD issues]

What were things like BEFORE you/your family/partner/community participated in the project/activity?
NYS Division of Human Rights: Prior to being aware of the Ramirez June Initiative (RJI), there were no resources for a community that is in significant need of assistance. While the NYS Division of Human Rights could provide assistance to persons who had experienced discrimination based on their developmental disability, we would have been challenged to assist similar persons who may have had immigration/naturalization needs. Knowing and working with ONA in that regard has added a whole new and effective resource to meet that need.

NYS Act Early Ambassador: Before our partnership with Office New Americans (ONA) the Ramirez June Initiative (RJI), I was not aware of their work, their partners, or and their community outreach.

Center for Refugee Services: It is my understanding from members of the New American (largely refugee) community here in Utica, NY that the word “disability” to them meant “wheelchair” and that was as far as they got. The training presented by Cynthia and her partners helped to open their eyes to other kinds of disabilities, including invisible ones. This was the first step in an effort to combat stigma associated with disability, which is an ongoing process. This program and outreach from it are crucial to our community!

What are things like AFTER you/family/partner/community participated in the project/activity?
NYS Division of Human Rights (DHR): DHR & ONA have collaborated on a number of programs where we have both virtually and in person met with communities in need of our services. Being able to provide information about resources available from both agencies is of good value for the immigrant communities served.

NYS Act Early Ambassador: For the past two years we have engaged in a very successful partnership and collaboration with the goal to empower new American families and immigrant service providers in the early identification of disabilities. Through this collaboration we were able to educate and empower new American families and their service providers, like early childhood educators, about child development, early identification of developmental disabilities and the resources available through the CDC Learn the Signs Act Early Campaign.

Center for Refugee Services: I won’t say that we have radically changed minds immediately. However, it was interesting to see that there is some curiosity about disabilities and how they are perceived in the US. We hope that bit by bit we can help to better educate people about disability generally, and services for those with disabilities.

What was most beneficial to you/family/partner/community from participating in this project or practice?
NYS Division of Human Rights: Being able to partner with ONA to assist persons in need.

NYS Act Early Ambassador: The partnership and the collaboration.

Center for Refugee Services: I think the most beneficial part of the series of presentations was the discussion around what, exactly, we mean with the word “disability” and having this discussion with our interpreters to help newcomers to better understand these concepts and how they are viewed in the US.

New York Council on Children and Families (CCF): RJI connected us/CCF with multicultural CBOs and new American communities and ONA grantees to gather information to prepare the brief on COVID-19’s impact on NY’s new American communities. The ONA RJI’s review of the brief, Impact of COVID 19 on Immigrant Families greatly helped shape the final product, (to access this final product, cut and paste this URL into your browser)

ABCD Community Partners: In response to a training coordinated by the ONA RJI initiative: “Speaking with the teachers from our center, our biggest takeaway from the Dr. Barros training on “Trauma-Informed Care” is that school is a safe space for children. Our teachers can dramatically positively impact children who may be experiencing adverse childhood experiences at home. Staff shared that it is always important for them to remember that children may be going through difficult things in their home lives and that can represent itself in different ways or behaviors. Teachers said they focus on listening and paying attention to clues that children need extra support. They work to show children, through their positive actions and words, that they are loved and cared for. Teachers also said that because of the experiences some children may be having, they incorporate more social-emotional learning activities and read alouds into their lesson plans. The fact that our children are with us from such a young age, we can connect with them on a deeper level to become like a second family and show them kindness and love.” Lizeth Lopez, New Paltz ABCD, Education Coordinator

“I have heard from a couple of teachers that the resources in Spanish were helpful especially when a child is not meeting milestones. They all enjoyed Dr. Barros and her presentation. It was a great training!” Mary Perez, Fredonia ABCD, Education Coordinator

The role of the DD Council in achieving positive outcomes through this project.
The NYS DDPC began collaborating with ONA in 2018 to help identify the primary needs, challenges, and issues faced by a new Americans with IDD, an underserved community in our state. We collaborated with ONA on a needs assessment that identified some of the major challenges new Americans faced when accessing IDD services, including language and cultural barriers, as well as systemic barriers due to a lack of understanding and awareness about this population. We also learned that ONA had a network of regional centers hosted by community-based organizations who had established trust with immigrant communities across the state. As a result of our collaboration with ONA, the Ramirez June Developmental Disabilities Navigator Initiative was born.

Contact Information
Name: Jacqueline Hayes
Phone: (518) 486-7505
Council location: New York