What have two women learned about childhood development from working with the Parent-Child Home Program, which sent them into the living rooms and kitchens of some of King County’s poorest homes?

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The key to the success of King County’s Parent-Child Home Program, featured Wednesday in The Seattle Times, is the people hired to visit families and help parents understand how to get the most educational value out of playing and reading with their 2- and 3-year-olds.

As part of the reporting for that story, which is part of our Education Lab project, we asked two people with experience as home visitors to share what they’ve learned from their work.

Below, we’ve featured some highlights from their responses to three questions about their experience in the program.

They are Stephanie Salazar, a Parent-Child supervisor who still visits with three families for the Children’s Home Society of Washington and Hannah Locke, a previous home visitor for Kindering but now manager of early learning impact at the United Way of King County.

(We also asked three others to answer the questions in Spanish, and they can be found here.)

All of the responses have been edited for length.

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What do you think makes parents interested in the Parent-Child Home Program, and how would you describe its value to a family?

Stephanie Salazar, I think the simplicity of this program really sparks an interest in parents. With an hour of home visits a week, we help give the parents the tools they need to be successful with their child while we are not there. The main value of this program is that parents get to build a stronger relationship with their children through play time while their children are learning and growing. We hope that this program lays the groundwork for children to be better prepared for kindergarten and beyond.

Hannah Locke: The first and primary reason a parent enrolls in (Parent-Child) is because they want the best for their child. They’ve learned that the program can help their child do well in school. It’s once they’re really into the program, and have completed a few months of visits and made a strong connection with their home visitor, that I think parents and the whole family start to understand the fullness of the impact.

 

If you were parenting a toddler now, what would you do differently knowing what you know about their development?

Salazar: I have two toddlers right now, so this program really hits close to home for me. I find myself making more time in my day to just sit and play with my children and explore things that they are interested in. I always knew the importance of play with children, but after working in this program, I knew that I had to be more intentional in dedicating my time to play and learn with my children.

Locke: I would think about how simple moments throughout the day that I share with my child — such as meal time, bath time, play or reading a book — are really wonderful opportunities for learning. I would pay attention to developmental milestones, ask questions about my child’s development and observe what my child is learning and what he (or) she is interested in most.

 

Please share an example of an interaction you had with a family that demonstrated that this program works.

Salazar: Some of my favorite visits are the first few visits of the second year of the program. I am always amazed at coming back into a home after taking off the summer and seeing how much language has developed in the child. To me, this means that the program is working and the parents are continuing to learn and play with their children even when the home visitor is not there.

Locke: I once worked with a mom whose son had previously been diagnosed with a developmental delay and had received early intervention therapies but then no longer needed them. It took over a year for mom to open up and really begin to have the confidence to actively participate in our home visits … She told me that her mother had struggled with alcoholism when she was a child, that she herself had been in special education services most of elementary school and that she was so scared that her son would suffer the same challenges as she had. As she opened up, I could see that she was realizing the ways in which she was rewriting the story for her own son.