Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Building a Better Future for Arizona’s Children

Parents as Teachers (PAT) is an international early childhood parent education and family support program within Arizona’s Children Association (AzCA). The core value of the program is founded on the principle that parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers. PAT is a free home visitation program that partners with families by providing information, support, community resources and fun educational activities to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life. PAT increases parent knowledge of early childhood development, provides early detection of developmental delays and health concerns, and prevents child abuse and neglect. Funded through First Things First, its effective curricula is known as an outstanding evidence-based best practice model for any pregnant family or family with children from birth to age six.
Certified home visitors, called Parent Educators, visit families in the safety of their homes bi-monthly and establish ongoing relationships that are professional, yet trusting. As part of the home visitation curriculum, parents learn to observe their children and learn to focus on developmental skill areas, participate in parent and child interactive activities, and receive follow up activities to work on between visits that utilize typical household items and reading.

“I believe in the mission of educating children as early as possible so that they can achieve and reach their full potential,” said Pam Carder, a Parent Educator in the PAT program in Pinal County. “I have seen the success this program has to offer with many of my families. Children love to learn. Children also love to play. This program allows them to learn while playing and I find it to be a true success story for the families we serve.”

Parents have the opportunity to share concerns and ask questions about their child’s developmental growth. Parents take the lead in setting goals for the child and family, and identify family strengths as they work with their Parent Educator.

An integral part of the program is the group meetings, or Group Connections. These are held monthly and offer parents the opportunity to share information about parenting issues and child development, learn from and support each other, observe their child’s interaction with other children, and practice parenting skills. Group Connections also offer a social network for parents to develop relationships with other parents.

As a requirement of the National Center for Parents as Teachers, and as part of the First Things First requirements, children also receive developmental screenings at regular intervals, as well as, hearing and vision screening.

Cheyloh Hamilton, a single mother of two energetic young boys, was working two jobs, cooking over a wood stove, and had a house in dire need of repairs when she came across the PAT program in Yavapai County. The program has helped Cheyloh to unlock the doors to her own successes, as well as, the success of her two young boys.

“Many people don’t know about Parents as Teachers, but I believe more people need this,” said Hamilton.

With the help of the program, Cheyloh and the boys have set aside family time each day dedicated to reading and learning. Parents as Teachers have also helped Cheyloh develop skills to parent her two very different boys. Ciel is sharp-minded and calm, whereas, Tre is more adventurous and sensitive. Cheyloh wants to make sure that she nurtures their individual personalities and strengths.
“Parents as Teachers is based on your child, wherever they’re at and whatever they need,” Hamilton said. “Parents as Teachers have had a big impact. It brought our family together, connected us to resources, lessened my anxiety and strengthened my parenting.”

Cheyloh is grateful for her partnership with Parents as Teachers as her boys continue to grow, and recommends Parents as Teachers to all families with young children that she knows.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to do what they love and also make a difference every single day!” explained Director of Prevention and Parents as Teachers Shelley Tellez. "This program is primary prevention first and foremost. Social service staff are invited into family homes in four different counties in Arizona to provide individualized parenting instruction. I cannot imagine anything better than that."

Photo: Cheyloh Hamilton, Ciel Hamilton, Tre Hamilton and Parent Educator, Jodie Campitelli.