Even in Homeless Shelters, Leake & Watts Parent-Child Home Program Prepares Toddlers for Success in School

Despite Lacking a Permanent Home, Preschoolers in the Program Have Shown a 121% Gain on Average in School Readiness and Social, Emotional Development

(Yonkers, New York)… Parents are their children’s first teachers, introducing their little ones to the world around them, and encouraging them to learn. Talking to toddlers, encouraging them to respond back, and helping children learn through play helps preschoolers develop social, verbal, and pre-literacy skills. Without such stimulation, children are more likely to be ill prepared for kindergarten, flounder academically, and ultimately fail to graduate high school.

Fortunately, with the right support, parents can learn how to help their children learn—even, as Leake & Watts has found, when families face the adversity of homelessness. The New York City nonprofit has successfully adapted the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) model, which sends trained visitors into homes to create learning environments, to work with transient families no matter where they stay each week.

Now, thanks to a $140,000 grant from Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, Leake & Watts will be able to expand its Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) to 36 children living in shelters, up from 16 children previously.

“At Leake & Watts, we believe that all of us can rise from where we are today to a better place in the future,” explains Alan Mucatel, executive director of Leake & Watts. “Early childhood supports, such as the Parent-Child Home Program, can change the trajectory of someone’s life. We are grateful to the Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation for investing in the future of vulnerable toddlers and preschoolers.”

PCHP visitors go twice a week to wherever families are staying, bringing a new book or educational toy each week, and then reading and playing with the children so parents can be confident when they do it. “They serve as a model so parents understand how to play, read, and talk to their children in a way that promotes school readiness,” explains Meredith Barber, senior director of institutional advancement at Leake & Watts. “All parents can be coached to engage with their children with an eye towards preparing for kindergarten and a life of learning, even if families have no choice but to live in a homeless shelter.”

Program led to a 121% gain in school readiness
More than 93% of homeless families in Leake & Watts PCHP have completed the two years of the program, and the results are impressive. After two years in the program, children’s school readiness increased on average from 1.4 to 3.1, for a gain of 121% on a 4-point scale. The gain was measured through a nationally recognized Parent-Child Home Program Child Behavior Traits (CBT) evaluation, which assesses a child’s school-readiness and early social and emotional development.

Leake & Watts has operated a traditional PCHP for families living in The Bronx for several years. It began to take PCHP into homeless shelters when families in the program lost a place to live.

“With decades of experience supporting fragile families in The Bronx, Leake & Watts has a strong understanding of the challenging logistics when you support families living in extreme poverty,” Ms. Barber says. “Families who move between shelters and temporary residences, ‘double up’ with other families, and rely on pay-as-you-go cell phones, are difficult to reach, but we connect with them. Parents genuinely look forward to PCHP visits.”

Nationwide, children who receive Parent-Child Home Program support are 30% more likely to complete high school than their socioeconomic peers, Ms. Barber notes. There are immediate payoffs as well. “Both parent and child benefit from the positive interaction, attention, and affection. They laugh and smile, and truly engage with each other through the books and toys,” she says. “It strengthens bonds that help families weather the storms.”

 

About Leake & Watts
Founded as a Manhattan orphanage in 1831, Leake & Watts operates programs serving more than 11,000 children, adults, and families throughout New York City and Westchester County. Programs include early childhood education, foster care and adoption, specialized education services, a home for teenage mothers in foster care, behavioral/mental health support services, and juvenile justice services. Leake & Watts also operates residences for adults with developmental disabilities and a Preventive Services program to stabilize at-risk families so children can remain in their parents’ care.

Leake and Watts Services, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the Middle States Association, and the Better Business Bureau. It is the recipient of the New York Community Trust 2014 Gold Nonprofit Excellence Award for Overall Management Excellence. In 2015, the Nonprofit Finance Fund recognized the effectiveness of Leake & Watts’ services by awarding a coveted Change Capital Grant to the agency and the Board of Directors of Leake & Watts was honored as a finalist of the 2016 Brooke W. Mahoney Award for Outstanding Board Leadership. The organization’s administrative offices are located in Yonkers. For more information, the public is invited to visit www.leakeandwatts.org, find it on Facebook www.facebook.com/leakeandwatts, and follow it on Twitter twitter.com/leakeandwatts.

 

About Parent-Child Home Program
The Parent-Child Home Program supports under-resourced families in preparing their young children for school success, by combining intensive home visits with weekly gifts of books and educational materials. Early Learning Specialists model good practices to educate parents about the importance of parent-child interaction, give them the tools needed to inculcate early literacy skills in their children, and encourage them to see themselves as active participants in their children’s educations. In this program, community-based early learning specialists visit participating families twice a week for two years. When families complete the program, the staff helps parents enroll their children in quality preschools or kindergartens. The program has been replicated in 400 high-need communities in 14 states and in Chile, Canada, Ireland and Bermuda.