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Home Visiting Program Helps Parents Help Their Kids

Home visits help parents become their child's first teacher. (Ldorfman/Wikimedia Commons)
Home visits help parents become their child's first teacher. (Ldorfman/Wikimedia Commons)
January 8, 2016

SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y. - The Family Service League in Suffolk County is offering a free school-readiness program to underserved families in the Bellport area.

The Parent-Child Home Program serves parents and 2- to 3-year-old children with two years of intensive, twice-weekly home visits. Lisa Jamison, a division director at Family Service League, said those visits focus not only on developing learning skills but on strengthening parent-child interactions.

"The objective of the program," she said, "is to close the achievement gap by giving low-income parents the tools and the skills that they need to prepare their children for school success."

The program, first developed in 1965, now serves communities in a dozen states, working one-on-one with low-income parents to help them become their children's first teacher.

Jamison said 50 years of experience have shown that those efforts produce measurable results.

"The graduates increase on average 17 points on IQ tests, are less likely to be referred to special-ed programs, and they graduate from high school at the rate of middle-class children," she said.

Like most early-childhood home visiting programs, the program on Long Island is being privately funded.

Advocates say programs such as this not only improve children's performance in school but are ultimately cost effective as well. But Kate Breslin, president and chief executive of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, said getting state funding can be difficult when the biggest benefits may be years in the future.

"I think that's our particular challenge," she said, "convincing our policy makers to really make that investment now when it really could make a huge impact."

According to the Schuyler Center, the Parent-Child Home Program is one of several home-visiting programs in operation in New York State.

More information is online at fsl-li.org and parent-child.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY