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The Buffalo News, 5/24/18   On-the-job training for society’s most important task


 

It is the hardest – and most important – job in the world.

Yet there is no instruction manual and there are no minimum qualifications.

Instead, parents are left to figure it out for themselves when raising a child – a hit-and-miss approach whose shortcomings are all too apparent.

That is what makes the King Urban Life Center’s Parent-Child Home Program so invaluable.

The initiative – a national program that the King Center adopted in 2002 – sends trained “home visitors” for a half-hour twice a week during the school year for two years to help parents learn how best to help their kids. The visitors bring a book, educational toy or game and model for the parent how to use the tool to help the child progress.

“These books or toys become the center of an educational environmental in the home,” said program coordinator Lisa Alexander. That’s critical because a lot of homes in Buffalo don’t have such teaching tools.

The materials also reflect the family’s culture so that the children can see themselves in the stories, Alexander said, which is particularly important because most in the program are families of color.

“She learned a lot,” Yesenia Santiago said of her 4-year-old daughter, Yamilette, who dashed into the living room of the family’s West Side home to demonstrate her reading skills and then disappeared. Yamilette has already graduated from the program, and her mother said, “the teacher in pre-K at Frank Sedita (Academy) said she’s really advanced.”

Santiago is hoping for the same kind of boost for her 2-year-old son, Jomar Perez, who has learned colors and shapes while working with home visitor Vanessa Birmingham.

The program currently serves about 40 families per year, but has reached as many as 60, depending on funding, which comes from such disparate entities as the United Way and the Community Foundation, to the City of Buffalo and even the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, which kicked in some asset forfeiture funds.

 

“The parent is our true target.” – Lisa Alexander

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