NGO serves as its name implies — Parents of Children with Special Needs
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Working with parents of children and adult children with special needs to support one another and to become more proactive in the care of their children is the mission of the non profit organization (NGO) PCSN Network — Parents of Children with Special Needs — that was established more than five years ago.
This was explained by Sandy Samoa, the head of the PCSN Network during an interview with Samoa News last week, as they observe Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month this month.
The PCSN Network was established in 2015 and their main focus is to make sure all children and adults with special needs receive necessary services. Samoa explained that the PCSN Network mainly works with families of children with disabilities, kids that have been born with various syndromes or had injuries or medical problems before age 18 resulting in developmental disabilities.
“We encourage parents to gain support and solutions from other parents as we all become specialists in our child’s disability and have a lot to share. We also have obstacles unique to our circumstances — that another parent can understand, and encourage each other — e.g. being on 24/7 duty is stressful.
“And some not only have the care of their child, but also manage jobs, households, and other children,” Samoa told Samoa News during the interview last week. She added, “One additional stressful event can put a parent over the edge. Another parent understands this and can help support them during crisis.”
When asked what type of service PNSN Network offers to families and individuals with special needs, Samoa stated that PCSN Network is parent run and they work together to offer services for the children.
“We do not have our own place, so we tap into other community programs for our activities. We look for things that will enrich our children’s cognitive and physical growth, promote life skills, and activities that are fun for them to look forward to,” Samoa explained.
Currently PCSN Network works side by side with other NGOs to help provide activities and programs for the children with special needs.
For example they have the Champions Club every Monday which is a faith based youth group that expresses God’s love to our kids through games, music, dance, art, communication skills, and other activities.
Monday evening PCSN Network hosts a ZOOM support group and Bible study for moms and women caregivers of children with special needs.
Tuesday, they have tennis at Lion’s Park and Wednesday is fitness class at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Wellness Center followed by a cooking class in the 4H classroom at ASCC. Friday, they have a swimming class at Sadie’s by the Sea.
They currently have a computer skills class on Wednesdays in collaboration with the American Samoa Humanities Council (ASHC) and Familiy2Family center for parents to be able to learn how to use the internet and ZOOM to access online support and attend workshops. The computer skills class will run until August.
“Like I explained, PCSN does not have a home base where we can set up everything for parents and children with special needs, however, and we tap into other programs for our events and we’re so blessed to see the support of these programs including other NGOs,” Samoa told Samoa News.
Samoa added, “I was really excited to see our new administration team has noted specifically to have programs for those with disabilities as a goal of PCSN is to have an enrichment center much like Easter Seals, for our adult children out of school, where they can continue to learn and grow.”
Last week, PCSN Network hosted programs with many activities for children with special needs to enjoy and learn. Some of the activities, including cooking class, elei class, and other activities allow them the opportunity to have fun and to learn more life skills.
Samoa said that she pretty much organizes all the programs and activities for the children and then the parents host and help them with their activities.
“We also encourage parents to be actively involved with their children to enrich their lives and to meet other parents for mutual support. The things we do are as much for the parent/ caregiver as for the children, if not more,” she said.
One of the challenges for the PCSN Network is funding for the different programs and activities for children with special needs so that they can access many programs and activities.
Unlike the Center for Families of Children with Developmental Disabilities (CFIDD) that received up to $40,000 a year to fund programs they offered for children with disabilities, PCSN Network currently has a small grant from the Leadership in Disabilities and Achievement Hawaii (LDAH) Parent Training and Information Center to conduct SPED and ADA Law related workshops.
“We also have a small grant this year from the ASHC to conduct our computer and internet training program which ends in August. I had not heard about the Department of Human and Social Services (DHSS) grant and am now looking into this. All our parents volunteer. We do pay our speakers who provide workshops for us. I am not a speaker, I do not pay myself for anything I do for PCSN,” Samoa explained.
Samoa said that some programs have donated activities to them and they really appreciate their assistance. She pointed to programs such as at the ASCC Wellness Center, the Land Grant 4H program, SPW, AS Tennis Association, Sadie’s by the Sea, Pala Lagoon Swimming Center, Hope House, Calvary Chapel, Great Life Church, UCEDD, Family2Family Center, DOH, KHJ, AS Deaf Program, Marine Wildlife, AS STEAM Program and Reggie Meredith for art classes.
All of these programs have assisted them for many years and they continue to offer their assistance to help with families and the children with special needs.
All individuals working for the PCSN Network are offering these services for children with special needs for free.
“Currently there are two mothers that work the programs we do and a third mother who will soon join our efforts. We have two other caregivers that help during activities when we have them and two other volunteers during Champions Club,” Samoa said.
She also stated that parents are encouraged to attend programs with their child/ adult child to help them focus, and for parental support. We are all parents and must assist our own children, so PCSN Events are not a “drop my kid off and go” type of program.
According to Samoa, PCSN Network did inquire at ASG’s Administrative Services twice in the last 3 years about housing at Lions Park, but was told there are no houses available.
OTHER NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS
Other NGOs also offering services and programs for people with disabilities also contacted Samoa News last week regarding the programs they’re conducting for children with special needs.
The Head of two NGOs told Samoa News that they applied for grants with the DHSS to assist them with their programs but they never received any funding. However, they were shocked to learn about the case involving funding paid to CFIDD for services that allegedly were never performed.
DAYCARE PROVIDER RESPONDS TO CFIDD CLAIM
Several daycare providers have come forward and denied claims by the Centers of Families of Children with Developmental Disabilities (CFIDD) that they also offered services and training to several daycare providers mentioned in their signed MOU with the American Samoa Disabilities Development Planning Council (DDPC).
Documents of the MOU between the CFIDD and the DDPC received by Samoa News state that CFIDD continues to provide training and technical assistance to many people including daycare providers to increase their awareness and sensitivities to the special needs of children and adults with developmental disabilities. Seven daycare providers were mentioned in the signed MOU.
Representatives from five Daycare providers contacted Samoa News to say that they never heard of any non profit organization called CFIDD offering services for children with disabilities nor had they received any services including training from CFIDD.