The Program

Right From The Start/ Desde el Principio (RFTS) provides education and family support services to at-risk Spanish speaking families who are expecting a baby or who have children and live primarily Highland Park, Highwood and nearby communities.

The program aims to promote healthy family functioning, healthy prenatal outcomes for pregnant women, and enhance the development of children.

Intervention and prevention-based services are provided for parents, primarily mothers, who may be facing obstacles such as: cultural and languages barriers, isolation, single parenting, financial struggles, and postpartum depression.

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RFTS was created in 1994. The program was created in response to the unmet needs of the growing Latino population of Highwood and Highland Park. In the beginning RFTS started with hospital visits, later on, home visits, prenatal groups and a parent education group were incorporated into the program. RFTS has grown and diversified its services by continually assessing our families’ needs and planning new strategies to help fulfill service gaps encountered by our participants.

Currently the program serves around 250 families, provides hospital visits, home visits and 14 different groups that promote the Latino families’ wellbeing.  All our services are free of charge. Transportation and childcare are provided for all groups.

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Pre-natal Education Groups 
We provide information and support in a culturally sensitive atmosphere with a comprehensive curriculum tailored to the needs of immigrant mothers, while also promoting the involvement of fathers.

Hospital Visits 
We support families following delivery at Highland Park Hospital.  Families are followed up with during subsequent home visits.

Home Visits 
Home visits are offered on a flexible schedule to accommodate individual family needs and focus on helping parents develop a healthy parent-child relationship. Family Support Workers provide families with information about child development. We also make referrals to outside community services.

Parent Education Groups 
Parents are provided with information on a diverse range of topics. Included in this group we have “Family Literacy” sessions which are provided by the Highland Park Public Library. They are facilitated by a story-teller and include puppets, songs, and crafts. Clients can borrow books from our lending library. Additionally, parents have the opportunity to network with other parents and discuss issues with various speakers.

Bi-lingual Drop-In Mornings 
Children enjoy developmentally appropriate playtime. These groups promote integration between children of different backgrounds. Children are exposed to songs and stories in English and Spanish.
Jewelry and Sewing Workshop
With the partnership of The Art Center we provide jewelry, sewing, and quilting classes that help our moms channel their creativity, improve their self-esteem, and teach them skills that help increase their family’s income.

Summer Program 
This group is run in collaboration with JCYS. Families enjoy the swimming pools at the Max Davidson Center. These activities promote positive parent-child interactions.  Kids and parents have a lot of fun!

English as a Second Language (ESL) classes 
In collaboration with the Township High School District 113 we offer ESL classes to help our clients get acculturated to living in the United States, secure better jobs, and keep up with their school age children. This class includes a lap sit section where parents read books to their young children. We provide transportation and childcare making our ESL class unique and more accessible than others in the community.

Fitness and Nutrition Classes 
Fiesta Fitness incorporates aerobic exercise with Latin music to help the mother’s burn calories, relieve tension and maintain good health.

Nutrition Classes are offered in collaboration with the University of Illinois Extension and the Lake County Health Department.

Baby and Me Group
This group is aimed at first-time moms; we provide information about child development and the importance of play.

Toddler Play Group 
This group provides parents with appropriate child development information. Children and their parents enjoy developmentally appropriate playtime, including art projects, songs and storytelling.
Couples Group 
In collaboration with the University of Illinois Extension, presentations about couples issues and family relations are provided for our parents.

School Readiness 
This group informs parents about preschool program options in the community and helps them prepare their children for the new experience.

School Age Children Enrichment Program 
In collaboration with Oak Terrace School 1st to 5th graders are invited to join the After School Enrichment Program that integrates exercise, nutrition information, crafts and healthy snacks.
Music and Movement Group 
In collaboration with Midwest Young Artist this class incorporates songs and games for children, helping them to develop language and motor skills and prividing a creative channel for them to express themselves trrough music.

Information, Advocacy & referrals 
We provide our families with information and referrals to other service providers within the community and advocate on their behalf when needed.

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Our Team

Program Coordinator
Nora Barquín, PhD., LCSW, has coordinated the RFTS program since 2002. She has a PhD in Biology, but after many years of working in medical research and volunteering with the immigrant community she decided to pursue a degree in Social Work. She has a broad range of experience working with Latino immigrants in different settings and understands immigrants’ needs.

Administrative Assistant
Luisa Espinosa-Lara has been at RFTS since 2004. She has a BA in advertising and public relations from her native country, Colombia. Her strong background in communication and her love for families and children has helped us provide excellent customer service. She is also maintains the program’s statistics.

Family Support Workers
Bertha Chávez has worked at RFTS since 1996. She was a Nurse in her native Ecuador. She trained as a doula. She had facilitated our prenatal group since 2002, and provides our clients with home visits. Throughout Bertha’s 13 years with the program she has showed unsurpassed dedication and commitment to building and maintaining relationships with our clients. She is wholeheartedly committed to all aspects of her job.

Lucrecia Soruco BSW, became part of our program in 2003. She has a BA in Social Work and has previously worked in a Head Start Program. She facilitates the “Baby and me group” and provides home visits to our clients. She is an empathic listener and has made the baby and me group very successful and contributed to its consistently high attendance.

Joanna Swidzinski, MA, started with RFTS in 2011. She has a BA in Psychology and Spanish and a master’s degree in Educational Psychology. She facilitates the Preschool group, nutrition and exercise group for school-aged children and provides home visits to our families. She has experience working with Latino immigrants and children in different settings. She is compassionate and an effective resource for our families.

Childcare Workers
Dinora Arias has worked with the RFTS program since 2007. She has a BA in Accounting from her native country, Mexico. She is a dynamic person who helps us with the transportation of clients, as well as a great childcare giver who understands the needs of our participants’ children

Marilú Betancourt has worked with us since 2004. She has an associate’s degree in Tourism from her native country, Mexico. Everyday she enjoys teaching and learning from the children. She is warmhearted and cares for children as if they were hers.

Soledad Uribe joined our team in 2008. She has an associate’s degree in Preschool Education from her native country, Mexico. She brings extensive experience working with children to our program. She has refreshed our group with new ideas about projects for children of different ages.

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Our volunteers are a valuable resource. They help us with:

  • Child care while parents participate in our programs
  • Assist with special events
  • Qualified professionals who facilitate groups

Volunteers are always welcome. Please call us at (847) 681-0890 if you have an interest in being a Right From The Start Program Volunteer

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Community Partners and Agencies

The Right From The Start Program has been very fortunate to have many partnerships that enrich our program and provide our clients with more exciting opportunities. The following is an alphabetical list of our partners:

  • The Art Center
  • Family Services Prevention, Education & Counseling NFP
  • Head Start Program
  • Highland Park Hospital
  • Highland Park Public Library
  • Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs
  • JCFS
  • JCYS
  • Lake County Health Department
  • Midwest Young Artists
  • Moraine Township
  • Neighbor to Neighbor
  • Nurture
  • Oak Terrace School
  • Ravinia Nursery School
  • Township High School District 113
  • University of Illinois Extension
  • YWCA

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For the second year, RFTS's Ballet group presented a dance performance at the Gordon Community Center in Lake Forest. With generous funding from the Weston Foundation and the collaboration of Center Stage Academy of Dance, the girls attended ballet classes once a week over the course of the year, culminating in the stunning spring performance. Thanks to Carla Garippo & Pam Weston for their ongoing support. Good job girls - we are very proud of you!


Testimonials (from current and past RFTS parents - will rotate below)

Survey Responses - “What do you see as RFTS ’s strengths?”

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