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Parent-Child Home Program Creates Equal Possibilities for Children


Kars For Kids Blog, 12/18

Imagine entering school never having held a book, never having used art materials — being unprepared to interact with your teachers and classmates. This real life situation is one that the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) aims to prevent: a situation in which under-resourced children are too often left behind their peers before they ever set foot in a classroom. PCHP builds equal possibilities for these children from the start, helping families prepare for school success and supporting a love of learning in the critical, early years. We couldn’t help but be impressed by the scope of this effort: PCHP works with 7,300 families in over 400 communities across 14 states, families challenged by poverty, language/literacy barriers, and homelessness.

We hope that our small grant helps PCHP further its important work with children. We spoke with Parent-Child Home Program Chief Development Officer Anita Stewart to learn more:

Kars4Kids: PCHP offers 2 years of 30-minute, twice-weekly visits by Early Learning Specialists (ELS) to families with at-risk, underserved children between the ages of 16 months and 4 years. Why this particular age range?

Anita Stewart: By the time low-income children are three, they have heard 30 million fewer words than their middle-income peers. By kindergarten, these children typically have less than two age-appropriate books and have had only 25 hours of 1-on-1 reading time compared to the over 1,100 hours middle-income children receive. Research shows that daily reading and regular conversation with an adult are the foundation of early literacy and school success, and without this extensive exposure to language, reading materials, and conversation, children enter school behind. Children who enter school already on the wrong side of the gap are likely to remain behind in first grade and in third grade, and they are more likely than their “ready” peers to drop out of school.

Families participating in our Core Program model (one-on-one home visits with parent and child) receive two 23-week cycles of 30 minute twice-weekly visits, for a total of 92 home visits, to support healthy development and educational success. Program research has defined this baseline as the number of visits necessary to achieve the documented effects.

Kars4Kids: PCHP participants are 50% less likely to be diagnosed with learning difficulties. Why?

Anita Stewart: The model’s implementation today is supported by decades of research on brain development and the importance of parent-child verbal interaction, as well as more recent research demonstrating that children’s cognitive and social-emotional development are interwoven and are most successfully nurtured within a positive relationship with a primary caregiver.

PCHP has been proven to increase performance on cognitive assessments on average 17 points, decrease by 50% the need for special education by grade 3, and increase graduation rates by 30% – to the same rate as middle income students.

More recently, New York University researchers have been conducting two randomized control trials in New York City. One study is of a culturally and linguistically diverse cohort, and the other a 100% Spanish-speaking cohort. As the children start to enter school, NYU is receiving data from the NYC Dept. of Education. The first kindergarten finding shows that PCHP children in the Spanish speaking study were four times less likely to have an IEP in kindergarten, demonstrating a significant decrease in the need for special education services.

Kars4Kids: Your ELS staff are bilingual, which means they’re fluent in the spoken language of the families with whom they meet. How many languages are represented by your staff? Have you ever had difficulty finding someone that speaks a particular language? If so, how did you handle this?

Anita Stewart: The Program is currently offered in 23 languages. We have offered it in 41 languages at any given time, and there are 52 languages accounted for across all families with whom we work.

Effective recruitment approaches have been developed to find and hire Program staff that speak the languages and meet the specific needs of all PCHP families. ELSs who were former Program parents, and parents who are currently participating in the Program are often a huge help to locate ELSs in their communities.

Please click here to read the full interview with Anita Stewart.

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