Local program reaches out to families

GRAFTON— With a vision for all children to learn, grow and develop to realize their full potential, the Preston/ Taylor Parents as Teachers (PAT) Program is committed to providing the necessary support, and knowledge, to parents and caregivers in order to help their little ones flourish.

The program is currently seeking interested families to join the journey of becoming their child’s first and most important teacher. PAT services are free, confidential and voluntary.

Being a part of PAT offers a certified educator, that works with parents, to inform them of their child’s development at each stage of growth, along with teaching parents how to observe, and have fun playing with their child, by introducing age-appropriate activities.

“Anyone from expecting mothers, to families with children that are five years of age, can enroll. There are no income requirements of any kind, and we are not associated with Child Protective Services,” shared Parent Educator for PAT of Taylor County, Sandy Davis.

Davis shared that she has been a Parent Educator for two years now, and really just enjoys being with the kids and their families.

According to Davis, the program is not only for those with special needs. However, PAT can offer resources for families with special need children.

PAT partners with parents through personal visits, monthly group meetings, child screenings and connecting with resources. The program focuses on helping parents understand their roles in encouraging their child’s development from the beginning.

Davis explained that at each personal home visit, she talks with parents about the child’s development, along with any parenting challenges they may be facing.

As a Parent Educator, Davis also helps families think about dynamics that will positively impact their child’s development and parent’s values.

“The monthly group meetings give parents in the program a chance to be introduced to others who are also enrolled,” said Davis.

She went on to say, that the group meetings are for all the families. Information of various topics such as, potty training or safe sleeping, is given out. Monthly meetings also consist of a book reading and a corresponding activity.

“In November, we read ‘If you Give a Pig a Pancake.’ We followed along with the book and made our own pancakes. It was a lot of fun; all the families really enjoyed it.

In addition, Davis reported that expecting mothers or teen mothers are also eligible to enroll in PAT saying, “We are there for them, to answer any questions about what to expect. Some teen moms might not have anyone to talk to, so if nothing else, we are there for support.”

Some of the other topics and areas of support provided through PAT include, ways to interact with your child, preparing your child for school, home safety, discipline and frustration.

According to their website, the concept for PAT came along in the 1970s, when educators from Missouri noted that children were beginning school with varying levels of school readiness.

Research revealed that greater parent involvement is a crucial link in the child’s development and learning skills such as, reading and writing.

The program was funded by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, along with Danforth Foundation in 1981, as a pilot project for first-time parents and newborns. After recognizing the cost effectiveness and benefits of the program, the Missouri legislature provided state funding in 1985, to allow PAT to be implemented is all Missouri school districts.

Since 1985, PAT has expanded to cover all 50 states, and six other countries. The program is a non-profit organization that is funded through state and federal grants.

“This is an extremely important program, that I wish more families would take advantage of,” expressed Davis. “The first five years are the absolute most important in your child’s development. We are here to help.”

To receive more information or to enroll today, contact Sandy Davis at 304-903-8362.

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