Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Spotlight on Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center

Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center (MPC) is a federally funded Parent Training Information Center (PTIC) whose mission is to empower parents of children with disabilities by providing them with knowledge and skills. Our aim is to provide them with information and training and connect them with specific educational services and opportunities that will enhance their child's quality of life.

In February we relocated to a new facility at 2082 Lexington Avenue, near 125th Street, which is at the crossroads of the communities we serve: East Harlem, Central Harlem and the Bronx. In this new location we provide one-on-one assistance and advocacy to parents experiencing difficulties with their child's education. Our staff is bilingual (English/Spanish) which is important because a large percentage of our consumers have limited or no English language skills.

We help families in low-income areas who are traditionally under-served or unserved. They are often the most disenfranchised and face many barriers to service. With our help they are able to receive information, navigate the system and secure the most appropriate services for their children.

We cover the full range of disabilities from moderately to severely disabled, from birth to 26 years of age. Read about a recent success story we had in getting the best care for one of our consumers.

The MPC Team

Co-Director                        Co-Director
Godfrey Rivera                    Cassandra Archie

Educational Advocates
Lizabeth Pardo                     Yesenia Estrella

Facilitator of Parent Support Group
William Bird Forteza


Meet the Education Advocates

Yesenia Estrella
"Helping others has brought a great deal of satisfaction to my life.Three and a half years ago when I started working at Sinergia as a Service Coordinator, I discovered a world that was completely unfamiliar to me, the world of children with special needs and their families. I quickly decided that I wanted to learn more about special education and started taking training workshops that were offered through our agency. During these trainings I got to know parents by listening to their stories.  I quickly noticed that most of them shared similar challenges and feelings of frustration by having to struggle to constantly obtain adequate services for their children.  My first thought was 'I have to do something to help.'

I tried to learn as much as possible about disabilities and about the skills needed to effectively advocate on behalf of parents and their children.

The Metropolitan Parent Center has given me the opportunity to work with many parents that were having difficulties obtaining a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

When looking for an educational advocate, parents should look for someone who is committed, knowledgeable and who has good negotiation and mediation skills."

Lizabeth Pardo
"Being an advocate allows me to work in the field of education, which I feel very strongly about.  I come from parents with little formal schooling but who placed a lot of importance on an education. As a law student, I studied about the right to an education; I took two independent classes because I believed that by having knowledge, issues of poverty could be overcome.

That was ten years ago, and my experience with my son in public school and my work at Sinergia have deepened my convictions. Although that is the background I bring, it is certainly not at the forefront of my mind when meeting with a family about their child's educational needs.  For people with disabilities, access to an education is a right that must often be fought for. I enjoy the many levels that my work involves when working with families individually, both within the New York City school system, and in collaboration with community organizations."

The Ethics of Advocacy

At Sinergia we practice the role of advocacy with a focus on ethics that ensures the work we do with and on behalf of families and children with disabilities is being delivered with the highest standards. Our advocates must:

    * Ensure the limits of their role are clearly defined
    * Offer honest information and opinions
    * Point out weaknesses and strengths
    * Identify provisions of the law
    * Inform parents of their basic rights
    * Assist parents in obtaining consultation or services from a licensed attorney if necessary
    * Abide by the decision of the parent
    * Use his/her best effort to achieve the goal(s) of the parent
    * Conduct advocacy in a civil and professional manner
    * Maintain confidentiality
    * Work with the family until issues are resolved


What Parents and Professionals Are Saying About the MPC

"From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your time and dedication, advice and work. May God always bless and protect you. With enormous affection..."

"(Sinergia's) work ethics are outstanding. I have never worked with an advocate agency so efficient and competent before, and believe me I have worked with quite a few".

"I always talk to my friends about Sinergia and I recommend it. A friend of mine is also receiving services now and I know she is very happy with the help she is getting."

"Special thanks to Yesenia Estrella. She always helps me. Any time.  She is a wonderful person. Thank you"

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