Submitted by FCSS
Parents as Teachers is a home visitation program that takes information about child development out to families on an individual basis. The program based in Milk River and Warner is funded through a partnership with Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).
“We bring them an age appropriate activity to do and actually sit on the floor with parents and their children — and help them become good observers of their children,” said South Region Parents as Teachers home visitor and program lead Lorry Vanden Dungen.
Vanden Dungen added the program also offers Ages and Stages with families on a regular basis. “So we know how the children are developing and helping parents understand where they will go next in their development.”
According to Vanden Dungen, the program also covers family well-being and helping families to look at how the health of the entire family is important. “And we look at parent-child interaction.”
“How can we best support them? We have a lot of different parenting behaviours we look at. Communication, nurturing and supporting their children’s learning. We look at all those kind of angles,” she said.
Historically speaking, Parents as Teachers started in the United States. The South Region Parents as Teachers has been around southern Alberta for 20 years.
“Our head office is in Lethbridge. I’ve been with Parents as Teachers for six years. It’s an amazing program. I wish I had a parent educator working with me when I started having my children,” she joked.
Vanden Dungen said she covers the entire Horizon School Division. “I go all the way up to Lomond and all the way down to the border and Barnwell, Taber, Grassy Lake — I cover a really large area. I actually don’t have families in all the areas yet. I don’t go to all of them, but I can,” she said.
With FCSS, Parents as Teachers works together and co-facilitates programming and events for preschool aged children including providing a roving gym and programs such as Welcome to Your Child’s Brain and Loose Parts.
“Parents as Teachers is an existing program already in a lot of the parts around Lethbridge, but Milk River and Warner didn’t have the program. FCSS has funded them to be able to provide the service to the Milk River and Warner area,” said Petra DeBow from FCSS.
DeBow believes Parents as Teachers is a fantastic program and it has a very clear curriculum.
“It’s all based on early childhood development. The great part is they actually go into the home and provide services to parents of young children directly in the home. They stay with the family for, I believe, up to five years. They like to get families with children that are really young — as young as possible to start out and build that foundation,” DeBow explained.
DeBow noted that is why FCSS made the decision to partner and fund this position.
“It’s not a service FCSS provides. We don’t go into the home and we don’t necessarily do a long-term connection with families. This is a great partnership because Lorry will be able to do a soft warm-off to programs such as Stay and Play with Families,” she said.
Parents as Teachers is a great fit with what FCSS offers, DeBow said. “We can partner with running programs in those communities. We’re all focused on the same early intervention, educating parents, and supporting parents. It’s a great partnership without duplicating services.”
Parents as Teachers can be utilized by families through self-referrals or through referrals from schools, the school division, doctors, health care professionals or a referral from children’s services. For more information contact Lorry at 403-654-7263 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.