Bringing Home The Importance of the Parent-Child Home Program
“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” -- John Dewey
As a former preschool teacher and parent, there is one truth that no one will ever change my mind on. Hope and progress is found in every educated child. The reverse is true as well, mind you. I’m not quite sure how this point can be argued or by whom. And yet, we are looking at millions of dollars being cut from our national education budget in 2018. Along with that a ton of security and opportunity.
249.5 million of that will come from the elimination of Preschool Development Grants. This means that at a point in children’s lives when they are most apt to develop a love for learning, we are going to pull the rug out from under them and in that, our future.
Does this confuse or horrify anyone else but me or Sarah Walzer, CEO of the Parent-Child Home Program, an organization working their tails off to mentor a love and commitment for learning at the optimal time in children’s lives?
No, I’m not daft to think that cuts don’t need to be made. But do we need to make them to the one line item on the ledger that translates to the ultimate survival and success of the United States of America?
Needless-to-say, my concern continues to grow with regards to the health and welfare of our education systems and our young learners, also known as “the innocent”. And so does Sarah Walzer’s as shared with you in her interview below.
Share your name and title.
Sarah Walzer, CEO
What is PCHP's mission statement?
The Parent-Child Home Program’s (PCHP) nationwide network of program sites provides low-income families with the necessary skills and tools to ensure their children achieve their greatest potential in school and in life. The National Center assists underserved communities in replicating and expanding PCHP’s proven school readiness program that builds language, literacy, and learning-rich home environments. Together we are strengthening families and communities, and preparing the workforce of the future.
Explain the necessity behind the launch of PCHP.
The preparation gap is the critical gap in school readiness skills that exists long before a low-income child enters a classroom. At as young as 18 months, low-income children are behind their peers in language development and the development of the social-emotional and cognitive skills that children need to be successful in the classroom. This preparation gap leads to the achievement gap that we have struggled to shrink in the US; the cure for the achievement gap is to get rid of it by preventing the preparation gap. We know that 61% of low-income children have no children’s books, that low-income children hear 30 million fewer words before kindergarten than their more affluent peers, and that a child’s vocabulary at age 3 can predict third grade reading achievement. We also know that there is a straightforward, effective way to address the preparation gap – providing parents with the knowledge, skills, and materials (books and educational toys) to prepare their children for school success ensures that low-income children can enter classrooms having read books, heard millions of words, with the cognitive and social-emotional skills they need to be performing on grade level in third grade and to go to graduate from high school.
Share a bit of the history behind PCHP.
The PCHP model was developed in 1965 by Dr. Phyllis Levenstein, an educational psychologist, who was asked to develop a program for families that would reduce the growing number of high school dropouts. After extensive research, she concluded that the most effective intervention would be to read out to families before their children entered school. In fact, she determined, well before it was a broadly acknowledged position, that dropout prevention efforts would be most effective if they began families at home before their children entered school. She developed and tested the key elements of the model – twice weekly home visits during which the Early Learning Specialist models for the parent and child together reading, conversation, and play activities that build language, literacy, numeracy, and social emotional skills, supporting parents in building learning-rich home environments and preparing children for school success.
The PCHP National Center was established in 1979 to support the replication of PCHP in underserved and under-resourced communities around the country. We work with our nationwide network of program sites to reach under-resourced, hard to reach families in urban, suburban, and real communities, and partner with local agencies interested in bringing the Program to their communities. PCHP has reached over 70,000 families since it began to expand.
Describe the families you serve.
PCHP is unique in its ability to provide low-income, hard to reach families such as immigrants, homeless, those isolated by poverty, with the tools, skills, and encouragement they need to prepare their children for school and to ensure that their children go on to graduate from high school at the same rate as middle-income students. Sixty-three percent of participating families were born outside of the United States and at least thirty-two primary home languages are spoken in any given Program year. PCHP families are challenged by language and literacy barriers, lack transportation to access community and center-based programming, over 80% of them have no other access to early childhood education. They are two-parent homes, single parents, and grandparents raising grandchildren
How do you believe you program helps?
PCHP works because we work with families at a critical point in children’s development. We are reaching families just as their children are turning two, a critical time in brain development, and are working with them in their homes to build the critical parent-child interaction that children need to thrive. By entering the home twice a week for two years, we are not only having an impact on the developing child, we are also having an impact on the family, benefitting older children and children to come. Parents learn ways to interact and converse with their child, see the impact of the time they spend reading and playing with their child, become their child’s first and most important teacher. They are also preparing to be their child’s educational advocate and academic support. They begin to plan for their children’s future – envisioning school and life success. And at the same time, children are learning literacy skills, motor skills, social-emotional skills, and so much more. Research demonstrates that PCHP children are ready for kindergarten, performing on grade level in third grade and graduating from high school at the rates of middle-class students nationally. Kindergarten teachers report they can tell who the PCHP children are from day one.
What defines PCHP away from other programs similar in nature?
PCHP is uniquely successful at reaching very difficult to reach families – homeless families, families isolated by literacy and language barriers, rural, urban and suburban families because our local Early Learning Specialists are from the communities where they work, share language and cultural backgrounds with the families they are visiting. Twenty-five percent of PCHP Early Learning Specialists are parent participants who graduate from the Program and are then hired to work with other families in their communities. Its gentle touch and one-on-one approach help support families experiencing many challenges to read, talk, and play with their children and set them on the path to success.
How many people work/volunteer for PCHP?
Currently in 14 states across the US, approximately 600 people work at local PCHP sites as site coordinators and early learning specialists. The National Center has 14 staff members and 4 state directors who work in the MA, NY, PA, and WA.
How far reaching are you?
PCHP reaches approximately 7,200 families annually, in 14 states through 114 local agency partners reaching families in 400 communities. We also have sites in Canada, Ireland, Bermuda, and Chile.
How are you funded? And how much does it cost each year to operate? Where have you experienced the majority of increases?
PCHP is funded by a diverse array of funding – state and local government funds, school district funds, United Way, foundation and corporate grants, and individual donations. Approximately $25 million annually enables the program to work with over 7,000 families. Recently the program has expanded significantly in WA, NY, MA, MN, and PA.
What is the impact on PCHP under the change in political administrations from President Obama to President Trump?
We are very concerned about proposed cuts in federal education funding that could reduce the funds states and school districts have available to support early childhood programming, thereby reducing the number of children who are ready for school. Because many of the families we work with are immigrants, refugees, and English-language learners, we are very concerned about the impact of the administration’s policies towards these families. The fear they feel is already affecting their children.
Share any upcoming initiatives?
On November 3 at Cipriani 25 Broadway we will be holding our annual Literacy Champions Gala where over 300 NYC professionals join together to support the expansion of PCHP’s work.
Finish this statement, "PCHP will be completely successful when ______________.”
We are able to reach every child in need to ensure that each of them has the opportunity to enter school prepared to succeed.
Think of it this way...the more money we contribute to the education of our children in the beginning, the less we will need to in the end. To that same point, the latter, undoubtedly, comes at a much higher price than any of us can ever really afford. That, alone, is elementary logic, if you ask me and should be considered before we throw caution to the wind or our youngins.
Many thanks to Sarah Walzer for making this interview possible