The first Parents as Teachers affiliated program in Juneau launched this fall, with funding support from the Alaska Children’s Trust, Best Beginnings, and thread Child Care Resource and Referral.
“The first 20 families enrolled in the pilot include military families, first time parents, busy single parents working two jobs, families new to Juneau, adoptive families, and just about every kind of diverse family you can imagine,” said Emily Coate, Parents as Teachers coordinator.
The Juneau Best Beginnings Partnerships for Families and Children, a collaborative group of 16 local organizations serving families with young children, identified Parents As Teachers as one of three top priorities to support Juneau children entering kindergarten ready to succeed. This decision was the result of a comprehensive needs assessment and strategic planning process, including surveys of more than 400 parents, teachers and community members.
Staffs from several partner agencies completed the Parents as Teachers training this fall, and AEYC-SEA, the Association for the Education of Young Children Southeast Alaska, is housing the program.
“We wanted to start out strong with the full scale evidence-based model, with a small number of families the first year,” said Coate.
The families enrolled were recruited from current parenting classes and family literacy activities in Juneau, and through referrals from partner organizations such as Juneau Public Health, Tlingit and Haida Head Start, REACH Infant Learning, and SERRC Learning Connections. A model of delivering the program to child care providers that are also parents is supported through funding from Thread Child Care Resource and Referral.
Nearly 1,000 children in Alaska were served by Parents As Teachers in 2011. A parent educator visits with the family monthly, bringing a learning activity, information pertaining to the child’s current development, and support for the family well being. Visits also include developmental and health screenings. Once a month there is a group connection event for families to meet each other and socialize. The Juneau group events this year are held every month at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center, including a light supper, informal discussion and time in the pool. In the summer months, the events will move to picnics at local playgrounds.
Parents As Teachers is an evidence based international home visitation program for children prenatal to 3 years of age. There is also a program for children ages 3-5. Randomized control trials and peer-reviewed published outcomes studies demonstrate that parents participating in the program are more involved throughout their child’s education, read to their children more, have increased knowledge and use of positive discipline practices, and reduced stress in the home.
In addition to improving kindergarten readiness, the Parents as Teachers program builds protective factors to strengthen families.
“The program really helps all adults in the child’s life have the same set of tools and be on the same page when it comes to parenting,” said Coate. “All children need a lot of attention, and helping parents be more relaxed, confident, and engaged with their child is what it’s all about.”
For more information about Parents as Teachers in Juneau, call AEYC at 789-1235, or go to www.parentsasteachers.org.