Home Visits

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

Staff Voices: Representing Native American Identity

Staff Voices: Representing Native American Identity 934 618 Ivy Marsnik

At the age of 16, I ran away from the city to move to the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. I always loved it up there. As children, we’d go every summer, and just about every weekend in between, to spend our days canoeing, ricing, and berry picking at my grandfather’s. We’d visit with the elders, explore the great outdoors, and care for one another in our community.

Looking back, I suppose it was the simple life that I ran back to.

Even at a young age, I knew working with children was my passion. Not long after my return, I found work in the early childhood education field providing home visits to families on the reservation. The families always viewed me as company, the socialization aspect equally as important for the parents and children that often lived 30 miles from their closest neighbors. It was not uncommon for my visits to run close to two hours long and conclude with talking about family and friends over a warm cup of coffee.

Life in the city is much different. Many native families come to Minneapolis for work and better access to quality education programs and health care centers for their families. But with so many great opportunities, families are constantly rushing and on the run to doctor appointments, parent activities at the school, extra classes and community events, you name it. For some families, finding an hour to set aside for a visit can be a challenge, but they make the time because like all parents, they want what’s best for their kids.

As natives, we also know that we need to do better for our children who are disproportionately unprepared to succeed in school.

  • Among Native American children in the state of Minnesota, only 61.9% were deemed ready for kindergarten last year, which is lower than any other racial or ethnic group.
  • Minnesota ranked 9th out of the 13 states reporting on 4th grade reading proficiency rates among Native American children.
  • Last year, Minnesota had nearly the worst high school graduation rate for Native American students in the nation with only 52% graduating on time.*

These dire statistics are important to highlight because all too often, America’s indigenous people are left out of conversations about closing the “achievement gap.” It is clear we must work to help our children. The first step is to inform parents in our community that these gaps exist and of the importance of starting early to build the foundational skills necessary to overcome them. Following a long history of discrimination, neglect, and abuse, we are recognizing as a community that it is time for us to speak up.


alisonAlison Dakota is a Way to Grow Family Educator. She currently works in Minneapolis providing family support and home visiting services to 30 families, 25 of which identify as Native American.

 


*Research presented in The State of Minnesota Public Education: A MinnCAN Research Snapshot, March 2016

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.

Best in Class

Best in Class 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

April of 2013, then four-year-old Davion knew just two colors and the first letter of his name. Recognizing Davion was slightly behind, Tonia, Davion’s Family Educator got right to work. Tonia referred the family to Way to Grow Preschool Pals and began increasing home visits to get Davion caught up before he started school. After lots of hard work, Davion started kindergarten this fall recognizing all nine colors and counting up to 50 orally. He was also able to recognize all of his upper case letters except for “Q”. Davion recognized all lower case letters except “q” and “d” — because after all, Davion starts with a capital “D”!

Because of your support, Davion was able to enter kindergarten with the knowledge necessary to start off strong academically and socially. Now, he can spend more time enjoying the fun stuff. Davion’s favorite parts of kindergarten are story time and playing with toys. He also enjoys playing and talking with his best friend, Sammie.

Mom and Dad continue to be very supportive of their family and of each other. Their co-parenting skills have greatly improved and they are working more as a team advocating for the education of their children. Both parents attended fall conferences which went especially well. They were both very proud to hear that Davion is now ahead of his peers and is getting more challenging work during class time. Davion’s teacher has been helping him start to work on writing complete words and short sentences instead of simply practicing writing his ABCs.

Way to go, Davion!

Emril’s “E”

Emril’s “E” 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Emril is a very energetic three-year-old who came to Way to Grow just seven months ago. Marie, Emril’s Way to Grow Family Educator, noticed he was having trouble sitting still and focusing on tasks.  He wasn’t responding to questions and wasn’t sure how to hold a pencil. In an effort to get Emril ready for preschool this fall, Marie got straight to work on teaching Emril to write his name.

In September, Emril began attending Way to Grow Preschool P.A.L.S. The talented teachers there build on the skills Emril learns at home. The preschool experience has been beneficial for Emril’s Mom as well.  While Emril is at school, she attends ESL classes to continue her education in hopes of earning her GED. During the preschool’s parent-child days, Emril’s mom enjoys the opportunity to play and learn with her son. “I am learning so much new stuff [from the home visits and preschool lessons],” Mom says, “Things I never knew before!”

Thanks to parent, classroom and home visiting support, Emril is now able to sit for longer periods of time and concentrate more on his learning. He also comes home cheerfully singing the songs he learns at school and enjoys telling Mom and Marie all about what he did that day. Between home visits, Mom practices writing lessons with Emril. In fact, when Marie returned two weeks later, Emril was eagerly writing the letter E!

“Preschool P.A.L.S. has definitely had a tremendous impact on Emril’s social-emotional skills,” Marie says. “Emril is already more engaged at visits and is responding to questions more readily.  When I would ask who his friends were at school, it was initially very difficult to get a response. Now he’ll happily tell me, ‘Sanja..  Josephina.. Mohammed..’ His progress over such a short amount of time has just been a lot of fun to watch. I am excited to see both Mom and Emril continue to grow.”

Guest Blog: Books to Grow – My Volunteer Story

Guest Blog: Books to Grow – My Volunteer Story 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

It is easy for all of us to talk about how we love children – those cute little faces are irresistible. But it is also easy to forget that so many children do not live the carefree, happy lives they deserve because their parents are stressed or struggling. I support Way to Grow because it is dedicated to the well being of the entire family, as well as the child. I believe that a supported and educated child grows up to become a productive, self sufficient adult.

IMG_4292

My name is Jeanne Ravich and I have been a Way to Grow supporter since my first meeting with Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow, several years ago. My husband Paul and I direct our efforts, both financially and as volunteers, to organizations in the education arena. We believe that education begins at birth and that parents are always a child’s most important teachers. The more I learned about Way to Grow and the successful programs it offers to children and their families, the more I committed my wholehearted support.

My relationship with Way To Grow has itself continued to grow over the years as I had a chance to meet the staff and get a closer look at the programs. I am especially impressed with the quality of the home visiting program, tailored to the culture and individuality of each family. I was impressed with the fact that the Family Educators come from the communities they serve, and collectively speak 8 different languages. They visit each family regularly, often beginning prenatally, and in 2014, they completed over 12,000 home visits.

Raising children is challenging for us all, and is especially difficult without a safe environment and when basic needs are not met. Way to Grow Family Educators and Resource Advocates help parents meet those needs, then teach child care and parenting skills. I wish I had that kind of support when I was a young parent!

The support continues through Way to Grow preschools and the Great by Eight program, fostering academic success through the third grade. I loved hearing that the Family Educators are there every step of the way. They often accompany parents to parent/teacher conferences and events, encouraging parents to embrace their role as their child’s number one teacher.

I have heard many personal and inspiring stories about parents and children whose lives changed for the better because of Way to Grow. I see pictures of proud parents and smiling children at preschool graduation. The statistics support the stories – more healthy babies, less teen pregnancy, and most importantly nearly 90% of children enrolled in the program were deemed prepared to succeed in school.

IMG_4291 - CopyInspired by the work the Family Educators do, I asked Carolyn if they had any specific needs. Without hesitation she said, “Books in the home.” It was hard for me to imagine a child without books, so important to verbal and cognitive development. I couldn’t imagine a home with nothing for parents to read to a child in their lap, no sturdy board books with colorful words or pictures, no Dr. Seuss rhymes or Goodnight Moon. I began to collect new books, for distribution through the Family Educators. I am currently working on setting up a network of generous moms who also cannot imagine a child without books. We have a mission. Family Educators on all home visits will give all children a book of their very own. Both inspired by and as a partner to Way to Grow, I call this project Books to Grow.

 

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice Makes Perfect 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Jacqueline is a bright spirited kindergartner with glowing dark skin and a vibrant smile bound to melt your heart. When Jacqueline started school this fall, she struggled knowing that she did not know how to write. When her Family Educator visited Jacqueline this past September, Jacqueline held up a piece of jumbo-ruled paper. With chicken scratches going every which way, Jacqueline’s letters were far from following the dashes between the lines.

Jacqueline grew visibly discouraged. She tossed her pencil aside and hung her heavy head. Her Family Educator was along for the ride. “It’s okay; I’ll be here every step of the way! We will work on this together,” Collette assured.

You see, Collette has seen Jacqueline grow over the years. She knew she could do it! Jacqueline had already come a long way. With her big sister, Grace, Jacqueline had joined Way to Grow following their parents’ big move from Togo, Africa. Her family, seeking help navigating their futures in their new, but foreign land, made their way to Way to Grow. They have been with us ever since.

Collette just had to convince Jacqueline herself that she could achieve all she set her mind to. With that, the fearless duo set off! “We practiced, practiced, practiced! Each and every home visit, we wrote sight words, names.. all sorts of stuff. When I went back to visit after winter break, Jacqueline could hardly wait to show me a recent assignment.”

Because of Collette’s encouragement, and of course Jacqueline’s hard work and support of her parents, the difference was night and day! Jacqueline beamed with pride as she pointed to her work, “Look Mrs. Collette! Look at my new handwriting!”

Now she is ready for success in school in every way!

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.

Making a Difference

Making a Difference 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

JaquelineMeet Jacqueline.  We hope to make Jacqueline’s holiday brighter by raising $2,500; enough to cover one full year of home visits and comprehensive programming with Way to Grow.  Jacqueline’s parents are from Togo, a small, tropical sub-Saharan country in West Africa. Edoh, Jacqueline’s mother has a goal for her children that many of us share. “Our educational goal for our daughter,” she says, “is that she will choose a career that makes her happy.” Jacqueline beams as she tells us, “I want to be a doctor so I can check my mom’s heart, teeth, ears, and mouth to be sure she is healthy.”

Jacqueline passed the school readiness assessment this past spring joining the 88% of Way to Grow children deemed ready for kindergarten! She participated in our Early Learning graduation ceremony this summer, lighting up her white cap and gown! Now in kindergarten, she is very excited to finally attend the same school as her big sister, Grace.  Grace has told Jacqueline so many fun and exciting stories about Bancroft Community School that she could hardly wait for it to begin this fall!

Jacqueline’s parents tell us they love Way to Grow for, “The way they teach. They come into my home and educate the whole family. They are flexible and are available to come when I am not at work, even if that is a Saturday morning.”  Sponsor Jacqueline as part of our My Scholar initiative this holiday season, and give one child the one gift that can never be taken back.

We cannot thank you enough for your support .
Together, we will make a difference!

Student of the Month!

Student of the Month! 150 150 Way to Grow

We’re excited to share this incredible Way to Grow success story!

This is Family Educator Collette Fredrickson reporting:

“On Monday morning, Osemwivie, kindergarten student and Way to Grow participant, was named Student of the Month at her school! Last August, Osemwivie was unable to read a single word and refused to even try out of fear of failing. She did very well on her IGDI (Individual Growth and Development Indicators) assessments but hadn’t started the formal reading instruction that happens in Kindergarten.

In a matter of weeks, Osemwivie was well on her way to reading A level books. By January, she was reading and comprehending G level books with ease. Her mom has done a fantastic job of integrating reading into everyday activities such as car rides, grocery shopping, waiting at the dentist, and their nightly bedtime routine. Lately, mom is the one who listens to the bedtime stories while Osemwivie reads the book. (Osemwivie even corrects her family educator’s reading ‘slip-ups’.)”

Congrats to Collette, Osemwivie, and her mother for all their hard work!

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