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Generocity, 8/8/18   Home visits from education experts are improving outcomes for Philly kids in poverty


 

The benefits of a home visiting program in Ameesha Jackson’s North Philadelphia home were unexpected.

For her, it was watching her Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) rep’s lessons and educational materials bring her whole family closer together. For her 3-year-old son Amari, it was finding a new favorite game: shapes and colors bingo.

“I think this program is helping [Amari] keep up with his brothers,” said Jackson, who has two other sons, Jayden, 8, and Mason, 5. “His brothers are already in school. They’re already engaging with other children.”

Home visiting programs are an effective way to introduce books and other learning tools to low-income Philadelphia children before they enter pre-K, said Malkia Singleton Ofori-Agyekum, the Pennsylvania program director for PCHP.

On a home visit, a service provider visits an expecting mother or a parent and young child in their home to discuss maternal health, early childhood development and parent coaching. According to a report by the National Home Visiting Resource Center, these programs can improve infant health, parent-child relationships and early childhood education.

Who benefits from home visiting programs in Philadelphia?

PCHP is one of 17 home visiting programs in Philadelphia County, according to United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Souther New Jersey’s Spring 2018 report, “Snapshot of the Home Visiting System in the Greater Philadelphia area.” There are 18 more in Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

All 35 home visiting programs in the Greater Philadelphia area serve low-income families, according to the United Way report; nationally, 74 percent of the 301,154 families served by evidence-based home visiting programs in 2016 reported an income below the federal poverty guidelines, which is about $19,000 for a family of three.

Proficient reading skills in third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation, which about 80 percent of children living below the poverty line fail to meet, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics: Low-income children have “have fewer literacy resources within the home, are less likely to be read to regularly … all resulting in a significant learning disadvantage, even before they have access to early preschool interventions.”

“When people are in poverty, they’re surviving,” Ofori-Agyekum said. “They’re trying to figure out where’s food coming from, how we’re not going to put on the street. You’re not always thinking about, ‘Oh, I need to be talking to my child, reading to my child to make sure they have enough language and education skills.’”

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