Organization: Napa Valley Child Advocacy Network, Inc . dba ParentsCAN
What’s needed: $15,000 for general support

Why they exist: Parenting a child with a disability -- physical, behavioral or developmental -- may present unique challenges for families. ParentsCAN was established by a group of parents of children with disabilities in 2005 to serve as a resource center for other parents of children with disabilities, and to provide emotional support and education that would help their children reach their full potential and thrive. Today, ParentsCAN helps 1,200 families each year learn to advocate for their children, navigate complex systems, and access important services like medical care, health insurance and special education. All services are free-of-charge and provided in English and Spanish.

What they do well: Early detection of a disability and proper intervention can prevent further developmental delays. To that end, one of ParentsCAN’s core services is the screening and assessment of children ages birth to 5 for developmental delays or a disability. If a child shows signs of developmental delays, the organization can start working with families early, and connect them to services that may prevent further delays. ParentsCAN’s staff, called advocates, work one-on-one with families of kids ages 0-22, and frequently accompany parents to meetings with doctors or school administrators, so parents eventually learn to advocate on behalf of their kids. ParentsCAN also stays true to its peer-based beginnings and runs regular peer support groups and education classes on topics like: organizing and tracking benefits paperwork; self-advocacy and skill building for transitional-age youth with disabilities; and rights and responsibilities of special education in the public school system. ParentsCAN also uses an evidence-based parent education program that equips parents with the information, tools and confidence to address everyday parenting challenges, like behavior and communication, that can be exacerbated by a disability. The nonprofit’s advocates all have family members with disabilities and understand firsthand the difficulties faced by their clients.

What we learned when we met with them recently: ParentsCAN’s demand for services has continued to increase in the last few years and is up 10 percent over last year. ParentsCAN’s clients also are among the community’s most vulnerable: 76 percent are low-income; 20 percent are from rural areas of Napa County; and 54 percent are Latino. To meet the rising demand for services, ParentsCAN’s executive leadership and Board are engaging in a strategic planning process, which will: expand the organization’s program scope; refine services; and re-focus the nonprofit’s sustainability plan based on its growing budget. ParentsCAN’s annual budget currently is $1,020,764; 70 percent comes from grants and contracts. This year, ParentsCAN must raise $272,200 from individual donors and foundations, which includes paying for the strategic planning process.

People served: 1,200 parents and families of children with special needs each year

Budget & Board: $1 million / 5 board members

Contact: Marlena Garcia, Executive Director,