Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Preschool For All - Cost of HIPPY

Queisha Malcom, Dallas HIPPY Home Instructor 
Jakavia and her little cousin LaMaurie, both in HIPPY!

Recently, President Obama released his proposed 2014 budget request, which included $75Billion over the next decade, to be invested in his "Preschool for All" proposal. I know that's A LOT OF MONEY - but I decided to check out what is proposed for the military budget ($640B) and the Department of Transportation Budget ($77B). How much is the future of our national worth? At least the same as the transportation infrastructure it seems. 

As we know if we listen to the news, this budget is still being battled contentiously. The proposal is however a good indicator of the president's recognition of the importance of early childhood education. Most exciting to me is that the early learning commitment includes $400M for research based home visiting programming. This means that programs like HIPPY are in line to expand services to meet the need for school readiness in even more communities. 

I know you are wondering, what does HIPPY cost? It varies due to different pay scales in different communities. Our 2011 average yearly cost to serve a child in Texas is $1,650. This includes 30 home visits, 6 parent meetings and child enrichment experiences, provided by a trained peer home visitor, supervised and trained by a professional coordinator, utilizing a research based curriculum that provided to parents in their home. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Early Childhood Education - Why Business Cares

Eduardo, one of our HIPPY students in Houston
with one of the projects he completed with his mom 

According to a ReadyNation report, the majority of large chambers and business round tables "have come to see early childhood as an investment in workforce and economic development that yields a high return." This organization seeks to connect insightful members of the business community with the work being done in Early Childhood Education and School Readiness. It makes my heart glad to see that our work is beginning to be recognized as a key to our country's future. ReadyNation has lot of research on their website on the economic effects of the achievement gap in U.S. schools. These effects include lower lifetime earnings, poor health and higher rates of incarceration. If you'd like to add your voice to supporting school readiness, please consider taking the ReadyNation Pledge!

TAKE 10 Challenge

Irving HIPPY families and staff at a TAKE 10 CHALLENGE event

Irving HIPPY in the Irving Independent School District recently participated in a health and fitness challenge. Once again, this initiative demonstrates how our HIPPY sites add on programming to the core of the HIPPY model, based on local partnerships and needs in the community. 

Parents in Irving were challenged to do at least 10 minutes of exercise daily, and nutrition and fitness classes for 12 weeks. They tracked their progress and the top 3 families were awarded prizes such as gift cards and Y-memberships. All families won in a way, because all of them were provided information and experiences that can have lifeline positive effects on their health and well being. 

You can view a slide show of pictures of this initiative here. Thanks HIPPY Irving and program partners for making our Irving community a healthier place!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

HIPPY Houston starts parent book clubs

Maria Santos, HIPPY Coordinator HISD

HIPPY program coordinators tailor the program to their community. Recently, HIPPY Houston sought to expand their efforts of increasing parent involvement and literacy through the implementation of book clubs. The first book club to be set up was at Roosevelt Elementary. About 30 parents attended and were eager to discuss the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk". This book provides parents with strategies of how to help children solve their own problems, not fix their problems for them. As parents of 3, 4, and 5 year olds our HIPPY parents are faced with many situations where this applies. The HIPPY curriculum itself is full of opportunities for parents to support their child's learning. 

The book club has been a great success according to HIPPY Coordinator Maria Santos. "The book they chose for the club is easy to read and provides them many useful exercises and tips they can use at home to help their children at school." And parents agreed, including Minerva Salazar who attended. She shared, "The book has helped me better understand my daughter, to be able to look at issues at school from her perspective."

The initiative was highlighted in the HISD produced newscast, and can be viewed here, it begins at minute 3:10. It was also covered in the Spanish language Educalos segment, here

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Power of Talk

According to a recent opinion piece in the New York Times, "the key to early learning is talking — specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better." The author goes on to describe a new initiative in Providence Rhode Island where home visitors will be trained to help parents increase the amount of family conversation in their home. The goal is to increase the number of words per hour, per week and per 3-year old lifetime. Research has found that children who hear more words, and who engage in more conversations do significantly better in school. All this made me think about how HIPPY supports the power of talk in our families.

The HIPPY curriculum is the key to this. Our HIPPY parents are provided with written materials that suggests specific dialogue for parents to speak to their children. Some educators have challenged us on this method - saying that our materials are too rigid and that parents need to use their own words not a suggested dialogue. In fact, parents learn from the suggested dialogue and adapt it to their own style. The curriculum gives parents a successful strategies for the following:

  • Questions to ask during and after reading a story
  • Giving a child directions and instructions, beginning one step directions for 3 year olds, and onto two and three step instructions as children develop
  • How to introduce a new concept to a child
  • Giving a child opportunities to share his/her opinions and ideas
  • Helping a child identify his/her feelings
Additionally, while the curriculum begins in a highly structured format, by Age 5 it is quite open ended, expecting parents to apply the techniques on their own. These strategies have ensured that children are exposed to a great deal of conversation and vocabulary, and therefore are highly prepared for school!

Read the full New York Times article here

Friday, April 19, 2013

One Star Foundation Monitoring Visit

Richardson HIPPYCorps in the (school) house!

Last week we hosted our program officers from the Texas OneStar Foundation for three days while they conducted a monitoring visit on Texas HIPPYCorps. In those three short days they visited two of our program sites, interviewed 3 coordinators and many home visitors and saw several home visits. And there's MORE, they also had a chance to meet 7 UNT staff members who are intimately involved in contracts, financial management and accounting for our grant here at UNT. PLUS, they spent quite a bit of time with the Texas HIPPY program staff. A whirlwind of HIPPY!!!! I would like to take the time to thank Houston, Irving, Richardson and Dallas HIPPYCorps programs for your flexibility and responsiveness while we scheduled all this! Our guests were so happy to be able to see where the HIPPY magic happens, and to have a chance to see home visits and members in action! 

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Brianna's list, Dallas HIPPY

Brianna asked her mom to write "Angel" and then she added her own list of words she knows. Reading together, making lists, counting -- these are the things our HIPPY parents do with their children every day. And, these activities are what ensures that students are ready for success in school. 

Recently the Office of the President unveiled their Birth Through Kindergarten Plan, called "Early Education for All Americans".  It includes home visiting!  In his State of the Union Address, on February 12, 2013, the President shared "In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.  We know this works.  So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

So proud of the hard work our coordinators, home visitors, and parents do to make sure that every child we work with is on the right track on the race of life!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New Texas HIPPY Family Members!

l-r: Tracie Crosswhite, Keshia Bruno, Carla Mowell

It's about time I introduced you to a new face we have around here. Tracie Crosswhite is the newest, full-time addition we have to our staff. She is in charge of everything fiscal for us - this means she keeps track of our spending, our grant budgets, match from our sites and coordinates the reporting of all that! She started working here back in May and comes to us with 9+ years of experience in grant management at the Mississippi State University. We're so happy to be a complete team again! 

And, we're so lucky to be at UNT with access to wonderful graduate student workers! Last semester Cami worked with us and this semester we have Mearl Colaco! She's a graduate student in Journalism and will be working on activities related to the MIECHV grant administration. She worked in public media in her native India where she trained young DJs for a community oriented radio station. I'm excited to put her blogging and journalistic credentials to work for HIPPY! Once she gets to know HIPPY better, I'm asking her to write a guest blog about her experiences with us. 

And a reminder - Keshia Bruno has been with us for over four years and provides support, training and technical assistance to our new and experienced HIPPY programs across the state. And then there's me, Carla Mowell, I can't believe I've been with HIPPY for going on 25 years!!! It's still fun and exciting to me, so I guess I'll stay a while :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ben Bernanke on Preschool Education

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke is well known economist. His wife is a teacher and together they have two children. He is also a former school board member. Oh yeah, he's also the current chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States. Known as "The Fed", this group establishes the value of the U.S. dollar, and guides policy intended to provide the nation with a stable financial system. Heckuva responsibility, and you would think all he thinks about are interest rates, effects of unemployment, and regulatory questions. You may wonder, what does the Fed or Ben Bernanke have to do with Preschool Education?

Well, according to Bernanke, "Economically speaking, early childhood programs are a good investment, with inflation-adjusted annual rates of return on the funds dedicated to these programs estimated to reach 10 percent or higher. Very few alternative investments can promise that kind of return." Compare this to a typical investment fund, where a "good" return is around 7%. So, the lead economist of our nation confirms what we've always known, and puts it in dollars - investing in children is the best money we can spend, not only to the benefit of each child, but society as a whole. Here's how Ben Bernanke put it, "When individuals are denied opportunities to reach their maximum potential, it harms not only those individuals, of course, but also the larger economy, which depends vitally on having a skilled, productive workforce. As a result, we all have a stake in the essential work that you are doing for our children."

You can view his entire, short, address to the Children's Defense Fund here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Parent Engagement and the Sandy Hook Tragedy

kid behind bars.jpg

(This is a stock photo I took off the internet to make a point.)

Today is a mere 3 months since the tragic killing of children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. The initial reactions have simmered down and yet, it's left many parents and educators feeling unsettled and more concerned than ever about school safety. Furthermore, we as a society can't seem to agree on how to ensure it never happens again. I have worked on many school campuses and know that schools cannot become lock tight in terms of security unless we build, treat and resource them like prisons. 

One of our jobs in HIPPY is to help parents understand the importance of being involved in their child's education at home and at school. Through home visits and our 30 week curriculum we arm parents with the information and skills they need to prepare their child for school. Our ultimate goal is for parents to transition their involvement to the school setting once their child enters Kindergarten. Every week home visitors offer parents volunteer opportunities and ask  parents if they volunteered the prior week. We challenge every parent to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours per year - a reachable goal that many of them greatly exceed. While we are busy preparing, encouraging and challenging parents to become more involved, we are sending them into schools that may or may not have the infrastructure, support or atmosphere needed for parent involvement. Research has proven that parents' involvement at their child's school is indispensable to the child's education and a prison-like environment would greatly reduce that critically important involvement. 

I'm also concerned that schools should be places that allow children to not only be and feel safe but to also to guard children's innocence. Yet, a prison-like environment creates a sense of fear and insecurity that robs our children of their childhood. Expert advice on how to discuss the tragedy said among other things to "project stability and calmness in relation to the event." How do we balance age appropriate safety precautions, parent involvement and maintaining safety? 

I believe it benefits us to look at the airline industry (which has plenty of problems too) and how security has developed since the 9-11 attacks. This is what they've come up with: 

  • * A secure periphery (security gates)
  • * Anonymous spot checking (air marshals)
  • * Expedited screening for "trusted travelers" who submit to a pre-screening process
  • * A culture of alertness (travelers, employees, etc.)
I believe all four of these components could be integrated into our planning for school safety. School design and redesign could focus more on safety, the way that airport entrances and access points changed. Safety plans are only as good as their daily implementation - and just as we have fire and tornado drills, we should include safety drills and spot checks from authorized agents. Parents and volunteers already go through screening in most school districts, this along with a safe perimeter would increase safety - we cannot sacrifice parent involvement to our fear. And finally, safety is only as good as all of us are at keeping it and being alert and involved. With all these, and working together, we can make our schools safer without creating a prison setting for our children. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Preventing Child Abuse

One of the challenges of working in the field of prevention is figuring out how to "prove" that you've prevented bad things from happening. For example, how do you prove that you've prevented child abuse? A prevalent theory is that you can work to increase the "protective factors" in a child's life. These factors include family resilience, social support, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need and social and children's attachment. By valuing parents, supporting them in every day parenting, responding to family crises, as well as helping parents understand and support their child's growth and development, we can decrease the chances of child abuse or neglect. We piloted the Protective Factors survey in a group of new families to see how our services impacted families' ability to cope with stresses of family life. Results of the study showed that "HIPPY parents most at-risk for child abuse and neglect increased statistically significantly in multiple protective factors to prevent child abuse and neglect after their first year of participation". For more information on Texas HIPPY research check out the Center for Parent Education website. For definitions and data on child abuse, mandated reporting and the cost of abuse, check out our partner organization TexProtects. And please take a moment to watch compelling testimony from Madeline McClure of TexProtects to our House of Representatives. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Something You DON'T Want to Miss!

Sylvia Bougacha, HIPPY National Trainer

HIPPY provides parents with an opportunity for daily educational activities to do with their preschool children, to prepare them for success in school. While school readiness is our mission, we've also found that the experience of reading and playing together daily also strengthens the bonds between parents and their young children. As Sylvia tells us "it's something that you don't want to miss!". 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Spotlight Corpus Christi

The ESC Region 2 HIPPY Team and one proud state director in the middle :)

Nueces County (Corpus Christi) is one of our new communities this year, funded through MIECHV. This is our first program hosted by an Education Service Center (Region 2) and we're really excited about the resources, network, and visibility that comes with working with a Service Center. This first year they are serving 60 children, primarily within Corpus Christi, but also a few families in outlying areas. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit their site in January and was so impressed with how HIPPY fits into their early childhood education initiatives. One really neat thing they have going on is the Early Scholars Academy. It's a state of the art, hands on learning center, much like a high quality children's museum, that provides students with learning opportunities in topics such as oceans, community and living things. While most children experience the Academy through a school field trip our lucky HIPPY families will have the opportunity to have a parent and child field trip to this wonderful venue. I can't wait to see pictures!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


After 25 years of working in HIPPY I did something completely new to me! Our partners over at TexProtects invited the members of the Home Visiting Coalition to testify to the Texas Senate Finance Committee - yikes! Basically they wanted the Committee to hear what we do and the impact we have. I only had three minutes which was hard because I can get talky!!! So, here's what I came up with:

"Today you are hearing from several of us. You may be asking yourself, why home visiting? why so many different programs? As we all know, our early influences have a lifelong effect on us. Each of our home visiting programs fills a different need in the communities we serve. By working with parents, in their home, we can have an even greater impact than in a clinical or classroom setting. By doing home visits we meet parents where they are. Home visits allow us to serve the most difficult to reach and isolated parents. Home visits allow us to tailor services to the unique situation of the family. 

I am here to tell you about our program, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters. Our program focuses on school readiness and parent involvement. We serve 3, 4, and 5 year olds. In an early survey on our families, they owned on average ONE CHILDREN'S BOOK in their home. That means that most had no books, and a few had several books. Using our curriculum, children's books and common household materials, our participating parents learn how to read daily with their children, how to play educational games, and how to set up their home as a learning environment. 

Our home visitors are alumni from our program - they have worked with their own children and are now teaching other parents. Using a 30 week curriculum, parents are taught simple activities that will get their children ready for school. As a result, 91% of our children are ready for Kindergarten according to the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, and 95% are ready according to their Kindergarten teachers. We have tracked our children through high school. We find that early on, for example in 3rd grade, our native Spanish speaking students were able to successfully pass standardized tests in English at he same rate as native English speakers. By 9th grade, the grade with the highest drop out rate in Texas, our students stayed in school and later graduate from high school at a higher rate than students were had not been in the program. Throughout school, our students showed higher attendance rates than the average. All these factors, not only reflect their success in school, they reflect the lifelong influence that that early start has. 

Every parent can be taught the skills needed to prepare their own child for school. Every child deserves to walk into their k classroom ready to succeed. That's what we do."

So - if you really want to geek out - you can watch the entire testimony, including an adorable little boy from ECI who stole the show :). It's on this link, scroll down to January 31, 2013, my part starts at 4:38, but you need to see the little boy, he's way cuter!

Monday, February 04, 2013

Funding Partnership - HHSC

Carla Mowell (L), Texas HIPPY Director, with Mary Riggs (R), Manager of the Texas Home Visiting Program, Texas Health and Human Services Commission

We've been so fortunate in Texas to have received a substantial federal grant from Health and Human Services - for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, or MIECHV. And, it's been great to make new connections and friends at Texas Health and Human Services, such as Mary! MIECHV funding has brought more home visiting (and HIPPY!) into Dallas, Ector, Potter, Cherokee, Gregg, Nueces and Willacy/Hidalgo Counties. 2012-13 was a start up year with staff hired and trained and families recruited over the summer. Full operations began in August and programs are now well underway. It's been really interesting to see HIPPY implemented in a variety of different communities and organizational settings. Several of the new sites are being implemented by organizations that have focused primarily on families with special needs or mental health needs (Potter, Cherokee, Gregg, Willacy/Hidalgo). We also have an Education Service Center (Nueces) as well as a Head Start organization (Ector), and an expansion of an existing school district program (Dallas). Thanks to MIECHV funding, over 450 additional children will be served in Texas this school year!