Agency Spotlight: Whatcom Center for Early Learning

Aug 30, 2023

United Way of Whatcom County supports a variety of nonprofits throughout our community, all working to meet basic needs, increase economic mobility, and break the cycle of poverty. Our work supports critical services, making sure every person in our community has access to the support they need to overcome barriers and thrive.

Every child deserves to have a strong foundation.

For many families who have a child with a developmental delay or disability, it can be challenging to access the kind of support their child needs. Oftentimes, families with members who need more assistance and support can find themselves in tricky situations, lacking the resources to know how best to help.

Today we’re highlighting Whatcom Center for Early Learning, one of our phenomenal partner agencies. WCEL supports children with disabilities and their families, providing resources and services at three locations in Whatcom County.

We asked our friends at WCEL to tell us more about the amazing work they do. Here’s what they had to say:


For those who may not know, how does your agency help individuals and families in Whatcom County?

Whatcom Center for Early Learning focuses on the needs of our youngest community members (from birth to three years old) who are experiencing developmental delays and disabilities, and their families. We provide wraparound support that includes in-home, family-engaged therapy sessions (Physical & Occupational, Speech Language-Pathology, and Specialized Early Childhood Instruction). We also provide parent-engaged classroom sessions, most of which are a blend of children with delays and those who are typically developing. Our Family Resource Coordinators connect families to universal basic need services, including disability-specific or family-specific needs, and anything the family may benefit from to provide the strongest foundation for their child/ren.


What are 3 things people may not know about Whatcom Center for Early Learning?

  1. We use an equity approach to our work, providing children and families more support when they have a more complex or a higher need. We work to identify barriers and mitigate them, and we are always listening and learning.
  2. We provide every family the opportunity to work with our Cultural Navigator and Language Access Manager, who is a native Spanish speaker and who coordinates all our certified translation and interpretation services. We also provide support to families who are from non-dominant cultures, to offer cultural perspectives and sensitivity to both our staff and the children and families we serve.  We are one of the only agencies in our State that offers this unique service.
  3. We ask our staff to participate in a wide array of learning and reflection, including topics such as Understanding and Supporting Neurodiversity in Adults, The Impacts of Racism and Our Regional History, The Disability Justice Movement, and Gaps & Realities in Care for BIPOC Families. This helps us to provide the best care for families, and ensures our agency is active in trying to dismantle systems of oppression and exclusion.


How do you collaborate with other United Way partner agencies?

  • We love to partner with other nonprofits! Our work naturally overlaps because of the nonprofit services that our children and families access. For example, many families go to the Food Bank, live in a variety of supported housing situations or are unhoused, have children in foster care, or who attend a local childcare. United Way does a great job creating crossover events for nonprofits to connect and share ideas, strategies, and celebrations.  We are so fortunate to live in a county where we live the motto “better together” and to be able to collaborate with so many partners who are equally dedicated to the community!

damien lives united

Changing Lives: Damien’s Story

Early support can make a massive difference for children with disabilities and developmental delays.

Meet Damien.

As a baby, Damien was diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. Thanks to the support he received from Whatcom Center for Early Learning and other United Way funded agencies, Damien was able to access the tools and resources he needed to thrive. Today, Damien is a multi-year math Olympiad winner and has been identified for the Gifted program.

Whatcom Center for Early Learning helped make this and so many other amazing stories possible.

Supporting a Holistic Network

We know that there are many barriers that hinder our friends’ and neighbors’ ability to find financial stability. Whatcom Center for Early Learning is one of 25 local agencies in United Way of Whatcom County’s network of collaborative nonprofits.

By using a holistic approach to addressing the complex issue of financial stability, United Way helps individuals, children, and families in our community get back on their feet and stay there.

Click here to see Damien’s Story.

To learn more about the United Way network, explore our partner agencies here.

Want to change a life for the better? Give here.

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