Parents as Teachers Provide Support to JC Parents

Photo courtesy of Katie Epema with Parents as Teachers.
Photo courtesy of Katie Epema with Parents as Teachers.

Parents as Teachers (PAT) — a parent education and support program — understands that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. JC Schools’ PAT program serves any family who lives in the Jefferson City school district and is either expecting a baby or has children not yet in kindergarten. 

“Of course, we know children don’t come with instruction manuals, so we’re there to provide support, problem-solving, information to parents,” said Katie Epema, PAT coordinator for the Jefferson City school district. Epema supervises parent educators and is also a parent educator herself.

The state-wide program has a few main goals: Help prepare children for success in school and in life, help inform parents about their child’s development and connect families to additional resources. 

All parents have questions, but PAT does not aim to tell parents how to raise their children. “We bring the researched-based developmental information, and then we help problem solve and brainstorm with parents on what is going to work best for their family,” Epema said. 

Some outcomes of the PAT program include a reduction in child abuse and neglect rates, children being better prepared for kindergarten and children having higher attendance rates and standardized testing scores throughout the first years of school. 

Services

One of the biggest perks of PAT is all of its services are free and families have discretion when it comes to which parts of the program they want to participate in. The bulk of the PAT programs involves visiting families usually at their home and at times that work best for them. If families want to have personal visits but not at their homes, visits can take place at the Southwest Early Childhood Center or other places around the community. 

“During visits, we bring information about child development, so what children should be able to do at different ages and stages,” Epema said. A parent-child activity specifically chosen for that family, information on topics such as attachment, discipline, safety, nutrition, etc. and tips for family well-being are also brought to home visits. 

Additionally, PAT does child development screenings as one of its services. Each school year, PAT can check the health, hearing, vision, overall development and social and emotional development of children aged three months to up until they go to kindergarten. “Usually, we find kids are right on track, but if not and there are some potential concerns, we can connect them to other resources,” Epema said. 

Another service offered by PAT is group connection events — events for families to gather and bond. In the past, these events have taken place at Runge Nature Center and other local destinations. “There are a lot of resources in our town including free, family-friendly events that not everybody might be aware of, so we do a lot of connecting with those,” Epema said. 

The easiest way to get involved with PAT is through their online enrollment form on its website, jcschools.us/pat. From there, families can be connected with a parent educator. Families or expectant parents interested in PAT but not residing in the Jefferson City school district should reach out to their local school district. 

“The big thing that we want people to know is that this program is available for anybody with young children — it’s designed to be universal access,” Epema said. “The only thing you need to do to qualify is have a child under the age of kindergarten or be expecting a baby and live within our school district.” 

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