Home Visitors: The Real Reason We’re Making Progress in Early Learning

By United Way of King County, on September 26, 2018 | In Helping Students Graduate

United Way believes that when parents become their children’s first and best teachers, kids start school on a path to success.

But what does that mean?

It means more than providing a safe place to live, sleep and play. It means more than providing food. It means looking at parenting differently.

Nancy Scheimann, the Parent-Child Home Program Coordinator at Southwest Youth and Family Services suggests, “Label everything you see with your child. Talk constantly. Explain things for children with words: Be it what you’re thinking, seeing or doing. It makes a huge difference.”

By looking at parenting differently, there are endless opportunities to teach new things to children, every single day.

It’s easy to not expect a small child to understand much, but evidence shows that’s a misconception. Kids are learning and absorbing far earlier than many parents realize. That’s why the Parent-Child Home Program begins so early, working with 2- and 3-year-olds and their parents.

Home visitors go into families’ houses twice a week for two years. Imagine being on either side of that: Having a stranger enter your home, or being a stranger and entering a home for the first time to talk about how parents can model activities for their kids. That sounds hard, right?

“When we recruit home visitors, we look for people who can relate to the families so they are more comfortable and approachable. We also look for people with an early learning background and who understand the program. Sometimes we’re able to recruit graduates of the program, which is great! Having someone from the community, representative of the people they are serving and who can speak to going through the program themselves is awesome.” Scheimann said about how she recruits her team of home visitors who serve more than 100 families.

Scheimann used to be a home visitor herself.

She got involved with the program because it spoke to her on a personal level and remembers struggling in school as a kid. When she had her daughter she wanted to do everything she could to set her up for academic and social success. One of the ways she did that was by implementing the practices that are taught in the Parent-Child Home Program. Scheimann saw the profound impact they made on her daughter. Now she says she loves working in early learning, “You can just see the change. A major change. It changes the whole family. The family will start making changes for themselves because they see it working.”

And she’s right—it is working.

Many people ask, “Can I volunteer as a home visitor?”, but with decades of experience, we know that paid positions from within these communities are what works. People who look like you, speak the same language and are a consistent presence on your kids life is the most effective approach.

  • 83% of parents exhibited positive behaviors that will help kids succeed in school, like providing focused attention and using encouraging language.
  • 85% showed significant increases in school-readiness skills like being able to focus on activities and using language to communicate their needs.
  • 95% of kids who started the program two years ago completed it successfully.

Do you want to support these incredible home visitors and the families they’re serving? Give today to make sure every kid in King County is ready for kindergarten.


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