Home Visiting

Strengthening Families: Hassan and Asha’s Story

Strengthening Families: Hassan and Asha’s Story 1200 800 Ivy Marsnik

“From the moment we met Shany in 2005, she was very respectful,” Hassan says thinking back to 12 years ago to the day when a neighbor introduced his family to Shany, a Way to Grow Family Educator. “The fact that Shany was a part of our culture and spoke our language made it very comfortable for my wife, Asha, who was often home alone with our children.”

Shany enrolled the family and began working with Hassan and Asha’s oldest son, Hamza, who was four years old at the time. Shany brought learning materials over each week to help Hamza with his reading and writing, and helped Asha find and enroll Hamza in a preschool program.

Hassan spent the next few years studying at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul to become a high school math teacher. Over the course of his studies, he and Asha had three more children. As the children grew, their reading and vocabulary skills improved with Shany’s guidance. Shany always explained how the children were doing, and helped Hassan and Asha understand where each child was developmentally.  Hassan was very pleased to see the improvements. He knew Shany was teaching his children the skills they would need to be successful in the classroom.

Over time, Shany became the family’s friend. “She served as an educator and mentor not only to our children, but to our entire family,” Hassan says. “Shany provided guidance and help to all of us. Whenever she made a home visit, she brought books, school supplies, learning materials and toys, and even bikes for our children. She also provided Asha and me with important community resources such as housing, library, and school choice information. Shany even went as far as to help my wife, whose English language is limited, translate documents, enroll in English Language Learning (ELL) classes, and complete a Child Development Associate (CDA) certificate program.”

“We began telling others in our community about Way to Grow the same way our neighbor had shared the word about the organization with us. It is such a great program, and our community needs it. It is so important especially in the inner city where schools are challenging for English language learners who don’t understand the system, how it works, or that our children need supplemental learning because what they learn in the classroom isn’t enough. Way to Grow helps families and immigrant communities new to the school system and brings them up. Having Shany in our home was a huge plus.”

In January 2017, Hassan and Asha moved from Minneapolis to a home in Bloomington, outside of Way to Grow’s current service area. According to Hassan, the family had two main criteria when finding a new home: having a high quality school district, and the overall safety of the community. Though Hassan and Asha miss the connections they made at Way to Grow, they could not be happier to have a place for their children to call their own.

Q&A with a Family Educator: Educating Parents about the Measles Outbreak

Q&A with a Family Educator: Educating Parents about the Measles Outbreak 150 150 Lisa Bryant

Recent reports now confirm the measles outbreak in Minnesota has spread to four counties, the most recent is LeSueur County, south of the Twin Cities. The number of confirmed cases has risen to 69 as of May 24. These cases are primarily affecting unvaccinated children ranging in age from 0 to 17 years. Way to Grow’s work in the community includes health and wellness education to help families prepare their children for success. We spoke to our Family Educators to find out how they are educating parents about the measles virus to better prepare them to make decisions regarding the health of their children.

Shamsa Idle, a Family Educator and 19-year employee with Way to Grow, was born and raised in Somalia, where she earned her degree as an RN. She worked with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (MCA), and with the World Food Programme (WFP) to eliminate malnutrition and provide care to babies suffering from low birth weight.

What information are you and other Family Educators telling families about the measles virus?

During home visits since the outbreak, Family Educators, like myself, have been asking parents if their children’s immunizations are up to date, providing them with information about the symptoms of measles, vaccination and care information, as well as providing them with resources recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health. We are emphasizing to our families how important it is to have their children vaccinated for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) and to watch for symptoms. If a family’s child has not been vaccinated, we encourage them to call their clinic  and schedule a vaccination immediately. If they have questions, they can always ask me; otherwise, they can call their doctor.

What are some of the questions your families are asking about the virus?

One question parents have been asking is what are the symptoms? I tell them, symptoms include a fever, rash and runny nose, which occur between eight and 12 days after expose to the virus. Another question they’ve asked is if their child contracts the virus, how many days will he/she be out of school? I let them know that their child will have to stay home from school for 21 days, and this is for the safety of their child, as well as all other children. But the key question every Somali parent has been asking is if their child can become autistic as a result getting the measles vaccine. I tell them there is no direct cause-related incidence of a child becoming autistic from the MMR vaccine.

Explain why the rate of unvaccinated children is high within Minnesota’s Somali community?

It has been a long-time issue, even before this recent outbreak. First, I understand it was a myth started by a London-based researcher who wrote a paper reporting cases of autism triggered by the MMR vaccine, and everyone believed it. Second, the Somali people are a people who communicate with one another a great deal. This myth may have been passed on from one person to the next, or one group of people to another in conversation. Third, the media has helped spread the myth within the Somali community.

Has any Way to Grow family’s child contracted the measles virus?

No. I am pleased to say that no WTG children have contracted measles.

As an RN who has worked with children who have suffered from dire health conditions, what advice can you offer WTG families?

My first advice is regarding the measles virus. Please, make certain your child’s immunizations are current. If they are not, get your child vaccinated immediately.

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017 960 638 Ivy Marsnik

Advocacy for Children Day celebrates early learning and gives parents, teachers, early care and education professionals, and communities from across the state an opportunity to stand up and be a voice for children. Led by the MinneMinds coalition, which Way to Grow is actively involved in, our staff and several families we serve are gathering at the capitol in support of equitable, child-centered, parent-directed, mixed delivery approaches to state policies affecting families and children. The 2017 policy agenda MinneMinds leads includes:

Ensuring Quality Care Through Parent Aware
  • Fully fund Parent Aware to continue the expansion of high‐quality early learning programs throughout Minnesota.
  • Support existing rated providers and grow from 3,000 programs to 4,400.
  • Ongoing support for rated providers and implementation of improvement strategies, with a priority on stronger recognition and incorporation of cultural competency.
Increasing Access to Quality Early Learning Through Scholarships
  • Increase funding and access of State Early Learning Scholarships for in need children birth‐to five to attend high quality early childhood development programs (Prioritize children with highest needs, including those facing homelessness and in foster care).
  • Complete efforts to fully‐fund scholarships for low‐income 3‐ and 4‐year‐olds to serve 7,000 new, at risk preschoolers.
  • Add funding for high priority groups for 0 to 2‐year‐olds (siblings, homeless, foster care, child protection) to serve 3,400 new, at risk babies and toddlers.
Assisting More Families In Need Through Home Visiting Programs
  • Increase access and funding for targeted home visiting programs to include 7,000 children in high poverty.
  • Provide community‐led solutions to high‐risk families to help stabilize them and give them a strong start.

What You Can Do

Attend the Rally

Join over 500 fellow early learning advocates as we fill the rotunda at the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Activities for children begin at 9 am with the rally beginning at 9:30 am. From 11 am – 4 pm legislators will be available for visits.

Register Here

Submit a Letter and Children’s Art

Whether or not you are able to attend the rally, we encourage you to submit a letter to your senators and representatives and tell them why our state’s youngest learners matter to you. Greater Twin Cities United Way  will collect children’s artwork to accompany the letters submitted.

Mail your artwork to:
Lulete Mola
Greater Twin Cities United Way
404 S 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Download Letter Template

Meet with Legislators

Meeting with legislators can be easier than you think. Follow these simple steps:
1) Find out who your legislators are
2) Set up a time to meet
3) Identify your main message and a personal story supporting that message
4) Follow these tips for holding a successful meeting

Why I am a Family Educator

Why I am a Family Educator 2560 1707 Ivy Marsnik

I worked for several years as a Special Education Educator’s Assistant before returning to earn a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education. After one year at a local school, I quickly realized the classroom was not the place for me. I didn’t feel like I could be as effective as I wanted to be without being able to reach families at home.

Today, I bring that perspective with me to the families I serve. I remember what it was like to be a teacher. I also remember the assumptions that came with it. There are many wonderful teachers, but I also think it is human nature for people to assume and to blame rather than to turn that lens on themselves. Teachers are no exception to that and often times, it’s the parents that fall victim to the blame. Meanwhile, parents are also at times relying too heavily on the school.

Way to Grow works to bridge that gap between home and the school. In the home, I start by first and foremost affirming the parent. I do not come in with all the tasks they need to complete and hoops they need to jump through for them to be the type of parent I want them to be. Yes, I set goals for each of my families, but I also encourage them to be open with me about the obstacles they see that could potentially prevent them reaching those goals.

Then we make a plan.

When it comes to getting parents more involved in the school, it helps to remind them that there isn’t a big wall between home and school, and to tell them that teachers actually want you to cross into their classrooms. You’d be surprised how many parents think, “I’m at home. The teacher is at school. I don’t want to interfere with what the teacher does.” A lot of what I do after breaking down that barrier is then encouraging them to be the best advocate for their kids that they can be, even if walking into that classroom means they are reliving the shame of perhaps not graduating high school or revisiting all of their own unmet expectations.

The second part of what Way to Grow does is help the parents realize their own role in supporting their child’s education. Children do not just go to school to learn – they learn from you every day. A large part of what I do is to help open, and sometimes facilitate, communication between the parent and the school. Sometimes parents may not feel open enough to share with the teacher they may be homeless or they may not think the school needs to know their car was broken into. That’s where I am able to pick up the phone or send an email to let the teacher know what is going on. So often, there is so much more than meets the eye. To be in the home and to have this line of communication (through the release of information) is very effective. It’s huge to be the eyes and ears for the teacher where the teacher can’t go. Once communication has been established and teachers see that parents are there for their child, things go much better.


Collette is celebrating her 5th year as a Family Educator with Way to Grow. She is currently serving 30 families that collectively include over 100 parents and children! Through her time and work with us, we know she has touched the lives of many more. Thank you, Collette for all you do to give our kids a brighter future.

Celebrating Social Innovation Month – Our Initial Findings

Celebrating Social Innovation Month – Our Initial Findings 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

In 2013, Way to Grow was selected as one of six (SIF) fund recipients in the Twin Cities, which included a $100,000 investment from the Social Innovation Fund to expand our Great by Eight home visiting model. The goal of this project is to determine if the Way to Grow Great by Eight program is a scalable, replicable model for early childhood and parent success.

The initial findings* provided credible evidence that our programming is achieving our stated impact, improving parent engagement, school readiness and academic proficiency among participating students.

Initial Findings SIF Evaluation – Parent Engagement

  • Frequency of home visits was a significant positive predictor of higher nurturing, discipline, support of child development and child care scores.
  • Frequency of home visits, both early learning and elementary, was a significant predictor of parent-teacher conference attendance.
  • Frequency of elementary home visits was a significant predictor of parents attending a school event or volunteering.


Initial Findings SIF Evaluation – Academics

  • Home visits the summer before kindergarten were a significant positive predictor of higher Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDI); when frequency of home visits increase, indicator scores increase.
  • Program participation duration is significantly associated with higher DIBELS scores.
  • Non English speaking children scored significantly higher on DIBELs compared to children with English as home language.
  • Highest gains were seen in mathematics (16.37 points) based on MAP scores, fall to spring.
  • The second highest gain was seen in informational text (reading) based on MAP scores.
  • The third highest gain was seen in the vocabulary scale based on MAP scores.

 

*Way to Grow received its initial evaluation findings in 2015, completed by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement through the guidance of the Corporation for National and Community Service, made possible through a grant from the Greater Twin Cities United Way in partnership with Generation Next and the STRIVE Network.


Social%20Innovation%20Fund%20LOGO%202015%20FINAL_0Great by Eight is supported by subgrant from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Social Innovation Fund combines public and private resources to grow the impact of innovative, community-based solutions that have compelling evidence of improving the lives of people in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Equity in Education – What Does it Look Like?

Equity in Education – What Does it Look Like? 1707 2560 Ivy Marsnik

Second Grade Success

Second Grade Success 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way To Grow1230Since Kindergarten, Shamsa, Asma’s Way to Grow Family Educator, has been working with Asma on picture naming and vocabulary. A native Somali speaker, Asma was also enrolled in an Arabic program which initially, made English Language Learning even more challenging. Shamsa persisted, encouraging mom to attend ELL classes, to read daily with her children, and to set aside time to complete homework each night. Now a second grader at Pillsbury Elementary School, Asma scored 100% on both picture naming and spelling sight words this fall!

Asma’s family as a whole places a prominent value on education. With hopes of obtaining a degree in the field of Child Development, Asma’s mother is now taking college English classes at MCTC. These classes are helping mom learn to read and write at a collegiate level. In the meantime, Mom recognizes what an asset her increased English language skills are to teaching her children. With her own English Language Learning, mom has become more deeply engaged and involved with Asma’s education. She has become a powerful advocate for her children, and perhaps more importantly, a role model.

Inside a Home Visit

Inside a Home Visit 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

With President Obama’s recent announcement to invest $750 million in preschool and childcare programs across the country, early learning is front and center, bringing home visiting into the national spotlight.  Most of us, however, don’t directly participate in home visiting, leaving questions of what all it entails and why it is so effective.  Today, we invite you to step inside a home visit with a Way to Grow family.

On a cold December night as most of Minneapolis is rushing home from work, Marie has just arrived at a small apartment building hidden away behind the busy streets of one of the city’s “hippest” neighborhoods.  Though greeted cheerfully at the door like an old family friend, there’s much more to this visit as told by the bulk of Marie’s tote.  Kevin, a kindergartner at Windom, and his parents were one of Marie’s first families when she started with Way to Grow two years ago.  As first generation Ecuadorian immigrants, parents Sophia and Marcos count on Marie to bridge the language and cultural gaps between home, school, and the community.

Following a warm and lively welcome, we were embraced by the enticing aroma of dinner being cooked by Sophia.  Everyone filed into the living room that doubles as the family’s bedroom and sat cross-legged on the floor.  Marie jumps into lesson mode as an adult friend of the family nonchalantly joins in, taking a spot on the neatly made bed.

The family watches Marie pull the small, lined dry-erase board out of her bag and Kevin springs up to find the marker she had left behind at their last visit.  “I only have a couple, so take good care of it and make sure you use it,” Marie had instructed.   Kevin impressively had safely kept it and proudly handed it off after writing his name on the board.

Following several fun learning activities, Marie gives dad and Kevin sight-word bingo cards, keeping one for herself.  Two months ago, Kevin recognized just two out of 100 English sight-words.  Today, he recognizes at least 30 more with confidence.  “Kevin is doing so well, have you been practicing?!” Marie asks Marcos.  “Si!” he exclaims as Kevin continues to draw and read aloud sight-words from the bag.  About halfway through the game, Kevin had memorized the words remaining on all three bingo cards demonstrating a high level of engagement and enthusiasm for learning.

Joining us from the kitchen, Sophia brought a certificate Kevin had received at school.  “It’s for perfect attendance!  Kevin did not miss any days of school!” Marie celebrated this success with the family, and congratulated a beaming Kevin and proud parents.  Marie then handed Sophia a stack of books in Spanish, appropriate for Kevin’s reading level.  She encourages the parents to read with Kevin and his younger brother, Jack.

Exchanging gratitude and salutations, it’s clear that relationships are the driving force behind successful home visits.

“Kevin has come a long way in his learning over the past two years, as have his parents,” Marie tells me outside, “They will always hold a special place in my heart.”  Last year, Kevin was among the 88% of Way to Grow kids deemed ready for kindergarten.  Marie, passionate about the work she is doing, heads off to the next home visit.

SightWords.com is packed with free games and tools to help parents and educators teach sight words to kids. To access some of the games and tools used by Way to Grow during Home Visits, please visit www.sightwords.com/sight-words/games.

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