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21st Apr


Great Article in the Chieftain


Some ways to bridge early education gap

Catholic Charities is not surprised by the Kids Count 2015 Report that stated, “the overall well-being of children locally remains among the worst in the state.” We are very familiar with the grim situation of children living in poverty.

We use an innovative two-generation approach to fight poverty. This includes a focus on both the parent and the child. The best way to help children out of poverty is through the parents. The best motivator for parents is to do it for their children.

We have a comprehensive early childhood education approach that includes Bright Beginnings, shop Parents as Teachers, SafeCare Colorado, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) and Nurturing Parenting. Most of the services are delivered in the homes of families and begin prenatally and continue until the child is 6 years old.

The following programs serve Pueblo and neighboring counties:

Bright Beginnings is a statewide effort to support every Colorado family by providing free and beneficial educational tools designed to enhance the cognitive, social and physical development of infants and toddlers.

Parents as Teachers is a parenting-education program for families with children up to 3 years of age. Twice-a-month home visits promote the parent’s role as their child’s first and most important teacher.
Parent educators share age-appropriate child development information with parents to increase the number of children ready for school. We bring books into the home for the child to keep so the parents can continue reading with their child. We also provide child-development screenings to check their hearing and vision to ensure the child does not have any potential health issues.

SafeCare Colorado is a structured, evidence-based, in-home program that provides direct skill training to parents in the areas of parenting, child safety and child health for at-risk children. This is in collaboration with the Department of Social Services in Pueblo, Custer, Huerfano and Las Animas counties.

HIPPY is an evidence-based, parent involvement school-readiness program that helps parents prepare their 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children for success in school and beyond. The program empowers parents as the primary educators of their children in the home and fosters parent involvement in school, which is critical.

Nurturing Parenting is a family-centered parenting course that builds positive parent-child relationships. Families receive the skills and resources to incorporate positive experiences in daily family life designed to build strong character, a sense of self-worth and a nurturing home environment for both the children and the parents.

We partner with both the local workforce center and Pueblo Community College on collaborative programs that include transitional jobs, supportive services and postsecondary education. We introduce these students to the post-secondary education environment and help remove the barriers in life that prevent access to these opportunities.

To maximize the chances of successful school experiences and to move families out of poverty, we must support and educate parents.

Experts tell us that 90 percent of all brain development occurs by the age of five. Children in poverty are at great risk of entering kindergarten not ready to learn, never catching up to their peers and not graduating high school.

Early childhood programs that support a healthy learning environment in the home are critical to giving children the opportunity to succeed in school and life.

Unfortunately, children in low-income families lack essential one-on-one reading time. A recent report by the Packard and MacArthur Foundations found that the average child growing up in a middleclass family has been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. The average child growing up in a low-income family, in contrast, has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading.

The sole goal of the early childhood programs is to ensure that every child is ready for school on his or her first day. The return on investment for early childhood education for at-risk children is significant over a lifetime.

We won’t see changes overnight, since early childhood education is a very deep, long-term investment in the next generation. However, we are getting anecdotal reports that teachers can tell a HIPPY kid because he or she shows up for kindergarten more prepared to excel. We know the parents that attend our classes have gained the necessary tools, skills and connections to be the parents they know they can.

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