“We play and learn and grow together.” – Mimi D., Parent-Child Home Program Home Visitor
A child’s number one teacher is their parent. And there’s a program right here in Dane County making sure this connection lasts a lifetime. United Way’s Parent-Child Home Program serves low-income families, getting a young child ready for kindergarten and supporting parents as they guide their child’s learning. Center for Families administers this program for families who volunteer to be a part of it.
“We meet the families where they are at,” said Emily K., a Parent-Child Home Program home visitor. Home visitors like Emily and Mimi visit a family with a two-year-old child and spend the next two years, coming to their home twice a week for 30 minutes. Each visit features a new toy or book that the child can keep forever. Home visitors work with the child’s parents on easy ways to use the new toy or book throughout the week to improve their child’s literacy skills.
“One child was diagnosed with autism and he was not very verbal in the first year of visits,” said Emily. “But he did a lot of pretend play, while his mom and I would read. I noticed in the second year, he started reading, talked a lot more and was very social. He just flourished and came into his own.” After two years of home visits with Parent-Child Home Program, the child was ready for kindergarten. Eighteen months later, the mom reports she and her son are doing really well.
This is just one anecdote of many. Parent-Child Home Program began six years ago with 40 families. This year, the program has the ability to serve 172 families, including Spanish and Hmong-speaking families, thanks to your donations.
United Way’s Born Learning Community Solutions Team (CST) puts an emphasis on Parent-Child Home Program, because it is delivering the results that the community demands of United Way. In 2016, 93% of 4-year-olds were 4K ready, far exceeding national benchmarks. Data also showed parents had a 42% gain in parenting skills, meaning they will be more engaged in their child’s academic success. These children are on track to have the same graduation rate as their peers from middle-class households, according to national Parent-Child Home Program research.
“Our team is focusing in on supporting not only the child’s healthy development, but the parent as well,” said Fabiola Hamdan, incoming Chair of the Born Learning CST. “The community tasked us to invest in programs getting the greatest results, so we can achieve our goal of moving more families on pathways out of poverty. Initiatives like Parent-Child Home Program are making a true impact in the lives of hundreds of local families.” Hamdan also said building strong relationships between United Way and partner agencies like Center for Families is essential to ultimately gaining the trust of families in our broader community.
Another reason why this program is such an asset to the community is that it provides another layer of support for parents who might not reach out otherwise.
“As a home visitor, you see them twice a week and a trust is built,” said Emily T. “They say they haven’t been sleeping or we’re having issues with our housing or I lost my job. I can ask if they would be willing to talk to my program coordinator and connect them with other resources. All families that I have talked to have been very receptive and appreciative of having this support.” Bringing this kind of holistic support to a family is a top priority of United Way, as we work to forge connections between the many programs that exist in our current systems.
The program’s home visitors each had their own inspirational story to share.
From Zach W.: “I worked with a family whose mom spoke very little English when I started. As the program went on, she got more comfortable and we would talk more. It got to the point where before I would leave every visit, she would ask for parenting advice. We would practice a phrase in English and we would write it down. When I would come the next time, we would practice the phrase and learn a new one before I left. After nearly two years, I was on the phone with her, asking if ‘Tuesday at 10’ was a good time to visit. And she said to me ‘Zach, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, any time you come, I am much too happy.’ That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Mimi D.: “I’ve just started to work with an Afghanistan refugee family and they speak no English. It has its challenges and delights. I rely on pantomime and use my hands a lot to communicate. I was reading a book to the little girl and I name animals, colors, shapes. She seldom says anything. But at one point, I was lifting a cup up, down, up, down. At the end of the visit, the little girl reached over to the cup and said ‘up, down’ as she moved it. It was the first English I had ever heard her say. Now, she counts and sings her ABCs.”
From building a parent’s confidence to bridging cultural divides to developing crucial literacy skills, home visitors like Emily, Zach and Mimi are changing lives for hundreds of local families. Elizabeth Kober, who coordinates the entire Parent-Child Home Program, said it best: “I feel privileged that these families are choosing to share their lives with us. It’s a gift to know these people. They care and they want the best for their children.”
Your generosity makes this work possible. Thank you for your continued support of United Way. Our volunteers are thoughtful stewards of your dollars, ensuring they go toward programs like Parent-Child Home. With you and our many partners, we are bringing these results-oriented, life-changing programs together holistically in order to create a Dane County where everyone can succeed in school, work and life.
Want to do more? An additional 1,600 local children and their families could benefit from Parent-Child Home Program.
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