Early Childhood Home Visiting Program families engage with their children through reading and sensory activities to promote language and problem-solving skills. Photo courtesy of Community Action Inc. of Central Texas
Supportive parenting program welcomes new families
Community Action Inc. of Central Texas’ Early Childhood Home Visiting Program is taking on new and previous clients.
The Early Childhood Home Visiting Program connects families with knowledgeable and friendly parent educators who share information on development-centered parenting, parent-child interaction and family well-being. The program normally includes home visits, group connections, child development screenings and connections to community resources. It equips parents with knowledge and resources to prepare their children for a stronger start in life and greater success in school.
“It is an excellent opportunity to be connected to resources,” Community Action’s Lead Parent Educator Nina Ramos said. “It's continuous parenting and family support, that is tailored to each family. Each family is matched with a parent educator that takes time with each family to figure out the best way to serve them. Some families need lots of resource support and others are more interested in the child development piece.”
Amid uncertain times, the Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs of Hays and Caldwell counties were steadfast in their response, supplying enrolled families with essential resources such as diapers and wipes, packages of water and gift cards from H-E-B and Lowe's.
The pandemic and winter storm led to changes in routines, increased stress and isolation and increased screen times that can impact children’s development and behavior, placing them at higher risk for delays.
These supports are critical in this time where parental and child stress, and the need for resources, are increasing.
“We have so much resources and so much time to serve the community,” Ramos said. “We would like families to be able to access that.”
Despite an increased need, the Early Childhood Home Visiting Program lost families when their programs went online.
“Pre pandemic, our home visits, we would come by once or twice a month with an activity that we would bring with us to do with the family,” Ramos said. “The goal was the parent would be taking the lead on that. Each and every activity was centered around child development, celebrating children’s milestones. We recognize the work they are doing and that the child is doing.”
But since the pandemic began, they have been following COVID-19 protocols and although they will drop off goods like diapers and gift cards, they had to suspend home visits, substituting for virtual engagements that many families found difficult to keep up with.
“It was really difficult for some of our families, it wasn’t what they signed up for,” Ramos said. “It's hard to connect with families and children over zoom especially if they have been on zoom all day.”
Although the program has been around for more than five years and has historically been close to full capacity, right now they are only serving 80 families when they have capacity for 160.
In Caldwell County, the program is closer to 20% capacity.
Their staff is very well trained not just in child development, but in the best way to serve families and engage families. They provide developmental screenings, giving feedback to parents to make sure children are hitting milestones, which is especially important in the first five years.
The completely free program is available to any families with children or infants under the age of five.
Ramos hopes to return to visiting families in person as soon as it’s safe, and continues to work with families following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines in the meantime.
Those interested in additional support and knowledge of child development are encouraged to contact coordinator Megan Campbell for information on enrollment at mcampbell@ communityaction.com or (512) 665-5631.
Newly enrolled families will receive a box of diapers and wipes at enrollment and their choice of a box of diapers or car seat upon completion of eight visits with their Parent Educator.
The Early Childhood Home Visiting Program is nationally recognized as a Blue Ribbon Affiliate by the Parents as Teachers National Center, Inc. (PATNC), distinguishing the program as one of the top performing home visiting affiliates within the PATNC’s international network.
Since 2015, Community Action Inc's Parents as Teachers affiliate has supported the parenting and school readiness goals of families across Hays County with funding from the Prevention and Early Intervention Division of the Department of Family and Protective Services. In 2020, with a grant from St. David’s Foundation, they were able to expand this program to Caldwell County.
You can learn more about Head Start programs and all the programs of Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas at www.communityaction.com.