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A 'PAT' on the back

New program helps parents teach their children

Posted: July 12, 2011 4:45 p.m.
Updated: July 13, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Parents as Teachers. That is both the name and the philosophy of a new Kershaw County First Steps program slated to begin in just a few short weeks. The nine-month home visitation program is designed to help parents prepare their children for school.

Funded through the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, the Parents as Teachers (PAT) community program relies on the philosophy that the parent is a child’s first and best teacher.

“(PAT) is a home visitation program where we go out and see the families once a week for an hour -- we meet with the families to give them different developmental strategies to do with their children,” said Kershaw County First Steps Program Coordinator Tammie Smith. “We also do monthly group meetings for the parents, we go over different topic areas and development, and we just make it fun and interactive for them and their kids.”

And what’s better, Smith added, is that the program is absolutely free to Kershaw County residents with a child or children up to 4 years old. Even if a child is 4 years old, Smith said they can still work with the family until the child starts school.

“We even have a pre-natal curriculum, so parents don’t technically have to even have the baby yet to come in and enroll,” she said.

Although PAT is a school-readiness program, Smith said that the real clients are parents. Showing them ways to work with the children when they’re there, she said, will empower them to teach their children on their own.

“I really want the parents that go through our program to feel as though they can teach their child, as though they can use the resources around them to teach them the things they need to know,” Smith said. “Basically, just talking and spending time with their child is what we want them to get out of their program.”

High-risk families, as well as teen parents, are encouraged to enroll in the program.

If parents need any additional help, such as getting food stamps, Smith said they also do their best to help link them to those other resources in the community.

Parents can also use First Step services over a length of time, as their services do not run out after only a year. For example, Smith said, parents who start out in the program with a 3-year-old, and then have another baby, can just roll their services over to the next child.

“We just want to reach as many parents as possible. I’m very passionate about this program (PAT), and all the ladies who work in our office, are extremely passionate about what we do -- we just want to reach parents and provide them with extra support,” she said. “No parent knows everything when they get started, it’s always a learning experience. So if we can be there to help them grow as parents and make connections with their children, I think we’re making a difference at the end of the day.”

Kershaw County First Steps program has served local parents and children for more than 10 years, providing assistance with school readiness services that include childcare, early childcare and parenting.

The new PAT program will run between August to May. The community program is still recruiting families for the upcoming year. For more information, call 432-7756 or stop by their office at 110 East DeKalb Street, Camden.

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