5-year-old Daniel looks up briefly when he hears his name but quickly gets back to the one thing that has captured his attention: a new book about pirates and a playful octopus. It’s a story he brought home from school. “Daniel loves kindergarten and enjoys checking out books to share with his little sister,” says Daniel’s mom Dora.
Daniel’s exposure to books and educational toys took place long before he walked into his kindergarten classroom. Three years ago, when Daniel was shy and frequently uncommunicative, Dora enrolled him in Parent-Child Home Program, a United Way of King County program that supports toddlers through educational play and helps caregivers develop their children’s cognitive and social skills. Through modeling behaviors, culturally matched home visitors teach parents how to stimulate their child’s ongoing learning in their own home.
When they started Parent-Child Home Program, Dora says the change in Daniel was almost immediate. “When our home visitor came and shared books, he liked it and started talking. I noticed a big change in him.” Daniel wasn’t the only one learning. “I would practice singing the songs that Daniel and I learned in the books,” says Dora, a native Spanish speaker.
United Way has grown the Parent-Child Home program from serving 160 families to 1,000.
Daniel and other children from low-income communities of color routinely start school well behind their peers. These kids have enormous potential but often face obstacles like language barriers, social isolation and poverty. In 2010, United Way set out to address inequities by investing in Parent-Child Home Program and increasing services for communities of color, including refugee and immigrant families. Not only did United Way and partner agencies scale the program from 160 families to 1200 families, 94% of families currently served in Parent-Child Home Program identify as people of color and 82% are English Language Learners.
Results show that Parent-Child Home Program really works. Graduates have higher readiness scores than the comparison group and higher than-average scores statewide. By 3rd grade, Parent-Child Home Program graduates significantly out-perform the comparison group in reading and math, with higher math scores than the statewide average. Nationally, high school graduation rates are much higher among Parent-Child Home Program graduates.
United Way of King County is committed to making sure kids graduate and that starts with kindergarten readiness. It leverages investments from different partners to reach more children in disconnected communities. Partnering with King County’s Best Starts for Kids and city of Seattle, United Way currently invests $6 million in Parent Child Home Program.
United Way believes the Parent-Child Home Program works because it’s reaching struggling, low-income families when and where it matters most – in the home, when children are 2 and 3 years old. Kids like Daniel, who Dora says, is now thriving in school. She credits the program with promoting her son’s development, including increased listening, focusing on tasks and engagement with peers, skills he can take with him as he moves on to 1st grade and beyond.