Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Juggling Act Called Parenting

One of my colleagues over at the National Parent Education Network wrote a fine letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal. I've reprinted it below, with permission. I admire how she took a strong stand!

Eve Sullivan

WALL STREET JOURNAL Dec.8, 2008, letter to the editor

In Business Bookshelf November 26, 'Up the ladder, step by step,' Philip Delves Broughton describes the so-called ‘work-life blend’ of an executive who takes his laptop and paperwork to his son’s baseball games. Something is wrong with this picture. It would certainly not be business-like to bring laundry to fold during Friday morning meetings at work.

It is hardly ‘parent-like’ to let work tasks encroach regularly on family life, although this may be necessary from time to time. Our children learn that we love them and value what they do by the good attention we give them and their activities. The epidemic of childhood and adolescent depression has at least some roots in inadequate parenting.

Parents, in turn, need support that we are not getting. Raising children and working outside the home are only two of the five-ball juggling act we are called upon to perform: we must attend to our own lives, to relationships, to productive work, to leisure and to involvement in the larger community.

As a society, we need parenting services, including parent education and support, to become normalized, widely available and affordable.

Eve Sullivan
Cambridge, Mass.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Texas HIPPY Kick Off

Texas HIPPY Kick Off
Originally uploaded by hippyprogram
Camp Pine Tree was the location of our first Texas HIPPY Kick Off. The idea was for us to "get away from it all" and delve deeply into a few topics, build our teams and have fun! This event was a collection of "firsts". Here are some of them:

* first trip away from home without family / children
* first time to try archery / canoeing / rock wall climbing
* first time staying at a camp
* first off site training / conference
* first time staying overnight with people from work, sharing a dorm with them!

I know that this was a hardship for some of the team, just being away from family, much less sleeping in a bunkhouse with a bunch of colleagues! I saw a lot of support, smiles and flexibility--even in the face of hardship. It was a pleasure to spend a few days under the pine trees, talking about dreams of the future and scholarships, and getting to know each other better. I especially enjoyed the evening chat around the fire, making s'mores and sharing funny stories. We're already planning next year's event!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tribute to Avima Lombard

When I learned that Avima Lombard, the founder of HIPPY recently died, and I wrote the following tribute to try and capture the impact she had on my life. My sincere condolences to her family, we will always remember her.

Years ago, when I learned that the name Avima means “my father” (avi) and “mother” (ma) in Hebrew, I had to smile. I imagined Avima’s parents bestowing this huge name on a tiny baby, knowing she was destined for greatness. She has been the mother and father of HIPPY, and created an extended international family who will carry on her social and educational heritage for generations to come. Indeed, she has impacted, inspire and energized so many people, with her vision, strength of will and character. With Avima, it wasn’t a matter of ego, but of how certain she was of her vision of a better future for parents and young children. She could go from giant to gentle in a minute—talking to a parent, child or shy home visitor. Avima was someone who took the education and future of the children of the world so seriously, without ever taking her own role too seriously. She was the same person always, whether speaking with the president of the university or the waitress at a cafĂ©. I will never forget her, I will always be inspired by her, and will always be thankful for the opportunity she has given me to impact the lives of so many.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


We’ve been investing some time in overhauling our training and technical assistance services we provide to our HIPPY sites. We're begining to see the effects of implementing our new training modules and getting great feedback from coordinators and home instructors. It's exciting to see our plans come to fruition. We began with a daylong meeting in with IDRA (Intercultural Development Research Association), two of our HIPPY Coordinators (Yolanda Smith and Marcela Montes) and ourselves (Keisha, Carla, David) to develop a training and technical assistance plan for the next few years. This is the 10th year of Texas HIPPY and over that time we’ve developed multiple training materials, resources and kits. These materials have been rolled out periodically and we’ve made some of them available on our website. We realized that we don’t need any more resource materials. What we needed was to connect the dots between what we're already doing and already have. Therefore we developed a comprehensive plan on how and when to use our resources, materials and opportunities effectively. We've developed a developmental model of “talent management” (the human resources buzzword to describe everything from recruitment, training, coaching and supervision). Our home visitors are on a 3 year cycle. They start with a nervous excitement, eager to learn and understand how this new work is to be done. That’s the “LEARN” phase and our focus will be to provide them with the start up tools they need to successfully work with families, schools and each other. Once they are comfortable in their skills, we need to move them into the “LEAD” stage. This is where they can begin to work smarter, more efficiently and grow into their strength and expertise. Before transitioning them out of HIPPY we hope to get them to the “SERVE” stage in which they reinvest their strengths and talents back into the program. At this stage they are asked to mentor others and take on special projects. LEARN * LEAD * SERVE: a three stage model of successful talent management!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Texas HIPPY = University of North Texas+AmeriCorps+Meadows Foundation

Whenever I have to introduce myself I usually say “I’m Carla Weir, the director of the Texas HIPPY Center. We’re an AmeriCorps funded project. I’m on staff at the University of North Texas and housed at the Meadow’s Foundation Executive Suites”. This usually registers a flicker of confusion and eventually I’ll have to give a deeper explanation. Here’s that explanation. HIPPY is a national and international program model that is implemented by a sponsoring agency such as a school district or non-profit organization. Texas HIPPY is the training and technical assistance office for the 9 HIPPY sites in Texas and is sponsored by the University of North Texas which is in Denton, TX. Our primary source of funding is from AmeriCorps. Our little 4 person office is not housed at the University. We have been generously provided office space by the Meadow’s Foundation Executive Suites where we’re co-housed with other small non-profit operations. This all goes to show how complicated and seemingly fragile non-profit programming is! It's no wonder my Dad always says "Honey, I’ll never understand how all that works….”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

HIPPY as Added Value

One of the questions that principals ask us when considering implementation of HIPPY is “Why should I spend money on services to a few 3, 4, and 5 year olds when I have a whole school to take care of?”. It’s a valid point especially as resources continuously shrink for education. Our answer is that HIPPY services don’t just affect a few 3, 4, and 5 year olds for that one year. We have research that demonstrates that HIPPY children do significantly better in school, all the way through High School. Texas Kindergarten teachers rate 90+% of HIPPY children as well prepared for school, this affects those children throughout their school careers. Every month a parent meeting is held at the school in which all the parents of the school are invited to participate. Lastly, HIPPY parents are asked to give back 20 hours as volunteers at the school, and many schools report that PTA participation is up since HIPPY began. HIPPY adds value to the whole school by increasing parent involvement, making lasting changes in children’s education and bringing parents into the school as active and supportive volunteers.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Intervention in Early Childhood: Links to School Success

We're often asked to demonstrate HIPPY's quantitative, research based effects. Below are highlights from a recent study developed by Dr. Angela Nievar, from the University of North Texas.

Research questions

Do students who have received a home visiting intervention program have significantly higher average reading scores than a comparable group of students, controlling for income and classroom quality?

Do students who have received an early childhood preschool program have significantly higher average reading scores than a comparable group of students, controlling for income and classroom quality?

In the Texas HIPPY program, 75% of families served are Hispanic, 18% are African American, 4% are Asian, 2% are Native American, and 1% is White. The median annual income of HIPPY families in Texas is $10,000, and almost 75% of parents surveyed had not graduated from high school.

The Classroom Effectiveness Index (CEI) measures the effectiveness of the child’s language arts teacher in the third grade (m = 5.01, sd = 9.69). CEIs are calculated through the use of multiple regression and hierarchical linear modeling and widely used to hold schools, principals, and teachers accountable for student achievement (Bembry, 1997).

Our results concur with a meta-analysis of early childhood parenting intervention programs (van IJzendoorn, Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., & Juffer, F., 2003); intervention programs that involve the parent have a positive effect on at-risk children. Our analyses looked at the effectiveness of prekindergarten and home visiting programs, separately and combined, on third grade reading achievement. The majority of students in the HIPPY home visiting program also attended prekindergarten; hence the number of HIPPY-only students is too small to test. As expected, a preliminary analysis showed a significant association between the Classroom Effectiveness Indices (CEI) and TAKS reading test (r = .22, p < .001). Correlations between income and both the CEI and TAKS reading measures were, respectively (r = .04, p < .001, r = .08, p < .001).

The models in Table 1 provide insight into the combined effects of socioeconomic status, classroom quality, and early intervention within low-income Spanish-speaking families. It was of particular interest that prekindergarten alone was not an effective intervention for this group. The HIPPY program predicted higher scores on TAKS reading when combined with prekindergarten. A test of the HIPPY program, including students who were only in HIPPY and in both groups, was also significant.

Monday, September 15, 2008


Sarah Thorne, our first VISTA member!

The HIPPY*VISTA project is our newest initiative undertaken to expand HIPPY services in Texas. Four community agencies have expressed an interest in implementing HIPPY, and have committed to supporting a VISTA member on site at their organization. These VISTA members will develop partnerships, establish an infrastructure and secure funding to start HIPPY in the next 2 years. We are currently recruiting members for the communities of Denton, Carrollton-Farmer's Branch, Edinburg and Maypearl Texas.

We have three overarching goals in our VISTA plan:

GOAL 1: VISTA members will engage the professional community as well as stakeholders and potential collaborators in the community resulting in the establishment of a School Readiness Task Force that will develop and implement a plan to increase parent involvement and school readiness in the community.

GOAL 2: VISTA members will engage parents in the community in school readiness activities in order for children to enter school ready to succeed.

GOAL 3: VISTA members will develop the infrastructure, partnerships and resources necessary to establish a fully functioning and sustainable parent involvement and school readiness program in the community.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Austin HIPPY Closes

Melanie Walter Mahoney, Texas HIPPY Rally 2008

It's never easy when a program closes, especially when it has been serving families successfully for over 15 years! It is with sadness I share the letter, below, I received from our Austin HIPPY Coordinator, Melanie Walter Mahoney. We have hopes that Austin HIPPY will return, and will be working diligently to make it happen!
Dear HIPPY Advisors and Friends-

Since 1991 HIPPY has been a program of Communities In Schools of Central Texas, serving families of Austin's young children' through home visitation with the goals of school readiness and parental involvement in children's education. As of 8/31/08, HIPPY will no longer be a program of CIS due to funding challenges for the past 5 years when Child Protective Services cut funding for its Prevention and Early Intervention Programs statewide in order to balance its budget, as all State agencies were mandated by the Legislature to do. I am writing to you to ask for your sage advice and help. Communities In Schools is looking for another organization to adopt HIPPY in Austin, perhaps an organization that works with parents of young children with funding for that purpose. Most HIPPY programs around Texas and the United States are parts of school districts and receive Title I funding, which is used in Austin to pay for parent support specialists in the schools. I ask that each of you please think about the organizations you are involved with and whether HIPPY might be a possible fit with them, including organizations with which you volunteer, and let me know of any thoughts that you have. HIPPY supporters will also be visiting representatives at the Capitol again to educate them regarding the need for funding from the next legislative session. If you need more information about HIPPY please refer to or I do look forward to hearing from you.
Best regards, Melanie

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Spotlight on Grand Prairie!

The HIPPY USA preservice tradition is a Thursday dinner with talent show put on by the participants. Here Esmeralda Rodriguez of Grand Prairie joined an Alabama team for the HIPPY Olympics!

Grand Prairie HIPPY started in 2005 with two elementary schools and 3 home visitors. After 3 years of successful implementation the program staff had the opportunity to present the model to principals across the district. Immediately the demand for the program increased, when principals heard how successful it had been in neighboring schools! This year, Grand Prairie grew from two schools to seventeen campuses served! Our HIPPY end of year celebrations in Grand Prairie boasted 280 parents and children in attendance!!! Principals, parents, administrators, school board members and community representatives, along with "Maya and Miguel" celebrated together. Our congratulations to the 184 four year olds, and 37 five year olds and their parents who completed the 30 week curriculum this year.

The success of Grand Prairie HIPPY is thanks to the strong leadership provided within the District, especially from Sandra De La Cruz, who had experienced HIPPY in a former job with Dallas ISD, as well as Gina Esparza, who was also a former HIPPY coordinator in Dallas, and now Miriam Rios, HIPPY coordinator, and her team of Home Instructors. It is with pride and sadness that we say congratulations to Gina as she takes on a new leadership position as an Elementary School Assistant Principal at Eisenhower Elementary in Grand Prairie. We'll miss you Gina!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Communication Exercise

Communication Exercise
Originally uploaded by hippyprogram
The annual Coordinator's Retreat always marks the begining of our program year. This year we rolled out a new training design we developed for sites coordinators to use with their Home Instructors. We presented them with "phase I" which provides them with approximately 6.5 hours of training to be provided during orientation and by week 10 of the HIPPY curriculum. We will be meeting again in October to develop more training modules together, and then in November at the Kick Off. In November we will provide them with "Phase II" which is the training materials for weeks 11-30+.

One thing we did differently this year was that we presented to them the first day, and the second day they presented to each other. They were divided into teams and prepared one of 4 training modules, as well as an ice breaker. Here Gabriella is debriefing a warm up activity that focuses on team work and communication. Those are two themes that came up time and time again in a survey of training needs that we did in April.

As always, it's great seeing everyone, and this year we walked away revved up with new energy and training ideas and materials. HIPPY New Year!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Texas Pioneer Foundation

A great big thank you to our newest foundation supporter, the Texas Pioneer Foundation. This organization supports access to higher education in Texas and is providing us with funding to ensure that HIPPY Home Instructors successfully access higher education resources. The funds will be used to allow us to:

1. Develop a mentorship program to provide individualized support to our members, using volunteers from the community and alumni from our program.

2. Establish partnerships with community colleges near our programs so our members can successfully transition into college. This is an effort to replicate and expand a successful partnership established at Richland College in Dallas, and Western College in Snyder.

3. Secure additional financial aid for members / alumni.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Meet the Evaluator

Ursula Johnson, Texas HIPPY Evaluator
University of North Texas, Center for Parent Education

Evaluation was Texas HIPPY’s first connection to the University of North Texas. Dr. Arminta Jacobson, professor at UNT and Director of the Center for Parent Education, has spear-headed our evaluation efforts since 1996. Graduate assistants have played an important role in evaluation from the start. Their interests and expertise have allowed us to work smarter over the years, streamline our systems, improve instruments, benchmark our results and increase the scope and reliability of our evaluations. HIPPY has been the focus of two doctoral dissertations and two masters theses and countless student papers. This year we have had the luxury of building in a transition between one graduate student and the next, and are happy to welcome Ursula Johnson in place of Amber Brown. Ursula brings with her a wealth of experience of coordinating research projects, assessing children from birth to adolescence, and evaluating programs through the Texas State Center for Early Childhood Development at University of Texas- Houston Health Science Center. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Educational Research with a minor in public policy to help bridge the gap between good research and its application into the education field. Ursula will be helping us further improve our evaluation efforts by finding new avenues to standardize our research and make it more accessible and data driven to hopefully increase funding and publication of our hard work.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Home Visitors Moving On

Our HIPPY home visitors are recruited from the communities we work in. Coordinators recruit current HIPPY parents, or alumni and train them to serve as AmeriCorps members visiting other parents in their own communities. This unique facet of our program means that each year we are recruiting, training and transitioning home visitors out of HIPPY. Throughout the year we provide each Home Visitor with the training and support they need to successfully serve their case-load of families. Our responsibility to our home visitors is to also provide them with the coaching they need to successfully transition from HIPPY to full time employment or higher education. They leave HIPPY with up to $4,726 in college scholarships (AmeriCorps education award). The end of the program year is always busy and exciting, and with mixed emotions we prepare to exit some of our families and home visitors who have been with us for 3 years. We wish them all the very best of luck!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Reflections of the Border

Nogales Arizona on the left, Nogales Sonora Mexico on the right

With so much in the news and the national elections about "securing our borders" I find it very interesting to spend time on the US / Mexico border. I had the chance to visit Nogales HIPPY, the only HIPPY site in Arizona and reflect a little on the similarities between the border in Arizona and Texas. Here are some of my thoughts:
The border towns in Arizona and in Texas seem more similar to each other than to other towns in either Arizona or Texas. That is to say, there's a distinct "border culture" in both. One example, I heard more Spanish than English on the border. People are often surprised when I speak fluent Spanish because I don't "look Latina" (meaning olive skin, brown eyes and dark hair. As in Laredo, in Nogales I saw and met a lot of fair skinned folks and some African Americans and Asians who are fully bilingual, either by "birth" or by virtue of growing up on the border. It was refreshing to not have that register of surprise that I speak Spanish.
I learned that the border is no big deal to the people who live along it. It's a simple fact of life, and crossing it once or many times a day is very common to people living on both sides. Often commerce is cross-border, and I'm talking about legal commerce! Crossing the border legally is very easy and involves a short stroll into an official building, showing your papers and walking through. They even have a term for it, la linea or "the line" in Nogales (there's no river, just a line) and el otro lado or "the other side" in Laredo. Life on the "other side", ie. Mexico, seems a lot more colorful and lively. While there seem to be equal numbers crossing either way, once you cross everything is within walking distance in the Mexico side. A lot of shopping and eating is available immediately as you cross into Mexico, whereas the US side is a lot more spread out. Most people have family on both sides of the border, and live their lives on both sides of the border. This has even gotten into the lingo, Nogales on either side is dubbed ambos Nogales "both Nogales" and in Laredo they call it los dos Laredos "the two Laredos" or cleverly LareDos...
I learned some interesting differences in my visit too. Arizonans seemed a bit more resigned to the creation of the fence than Texans. I dug a little deeper because I couldn't imagine it was simply a matter of Texan's fierce turns out that the great majority of the border lands in Texas are privately owned, whereas in Arizona they are government owned land. Therefore, there really are not as many opportunities to protest and fight the fence in Arizona, even though people I spoke with were not happy with it. Another difference which was amazing to me was the imbalance of population on the Mexico side in Arizona. Nogales MX is a city of over 200,000 whereas Nogales AZ is 25,000. While I'm not sure of the exact figures in LareDos they weigh in more evenly.
Haven't talked much about HIPPY though, have I? Well, I found the program to be in excellent order. I got a chance to see an excellent parent meeting, as well as two well implemented home visits, family files and meeting with administrators. The new staff is highly energetic and is focusing on not only stabilizing the program but growing it to serve additional communities in the area. They are in a perfect position to do so as they have a few years remaining in their current funding source. Hopefully I'll have a chance to visit again in the future and support them as they progress.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Path to Scholarship

Path to Scholarship
Originally uploaded by hippyprogram
Last week was a whirlwind of activity! We hosted our annual Texas HIPPY Rally with almost 100 attendees including home visitors and coordinators from across the state. We started off the 2 days with a Texas HIPPY Advisory Council meeting. The advisors then joined the HIPPY teams for lunch and recognized the home visitors who are taking steps in higher education. This year we have one home visitor who is taking online courses, several enrolled in college, several in community college and others enrolled in ESL classes in preparation for college entry in the Fall. The remainder of the day was spent in training, with home visitors learning from Aurelio Montemayor and Frances Guzman of the Intercultural Development Research Association how to engage parents as leaders.

That evening was our 20 year anniversary celebration (more on that another day!) and then Friday was an all day training on Path to Scholarships--where we learned about the importance of being organized, informed and persistent in applying for the multitude of scholarships available. More on that too!

For now, suffice it to say...we had a wonderful 2 days together, learned a lot, shared a lot, planned a lot!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Peer Exchange with Colorado

The three of us, Susan, David and I, had a chance to visit with the Colorado HIPPY team for two days last week. We brought some Texas sunshine with us and the weather as well as the professional enrichment was great! We had a chance to each share our personal strengths and challenges, as well as our organization's strengths, goals and challenges. We each had a chance to learn how our counterpart at the other state office handles their tasks and share experiences and challenges. It was a highly productive 2 days that we hope can be repeated in the future! Thanks Melissa and the Colorado Parent Child Foundation team for generously sharing your time, expertise and energy with us!