Residents of Barberton take pride in their community and believe that no one child or adult should be left behind. When data showed that less than one-quarter of Barberton children were prepared for school success, the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) and the Barberton City Schools partnered to help address this key community problem.
AMHA Early Childhood Initiative
In addition to being an affordable housing authority, AMHA plays a key part in providing educational success to families. AMHA’s Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) offers a continuum of early childhood services that are proven to increase parent engagement, healthy child development, and increased school readiness and success. ECI offers a two-generation approach, collaborating with parents to focus on their own personal and economic goals.
ECI offers a continuum of family-focused programming including home visitation using the Parents as Teachers (PAT) model for families with children ages prenatal through kindergarten. PAT is an evidence-based home visiting model that matches caregivers with trained professionals who make regular home visits during a child’s earliest years in life, from prenatal through kindergarten. The PAT model is designed to achieve four primary goals: increase parent knowledge of early childhood development and improve parenting practices, provide early detection of developmental delays and health issues, prevent child abuse and neglect, and increase children’s school readiness and success. In conjunction with PAT, ECI also offers family outreach events and maternal depression support groups.
Next in the continuum of support is the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) program, which provides a kindergarten readiness advantage for families with preschool-age children. The SPARK family meets with their assigned home visitor who helps the parent engage in a lesson that was developed around state standards and is designed to provide a school readiness advantage. At each visit, a book, an activity card and supplies are given to the family, so the parent can continue the learning between visits.
Both PAT and SPARK conduct developmental screenings and facilitate referrals and linkages to community resources. The SPARK team participates in monthly responsive services meetings that focus on a team approach of wraparound services concentrating on the child’s development and preparation for kindergarten. Both PAT and SPARK prioritize assisting families with getting their children enrolled in high-quality preschool and/or child care.
The final transition point between ECI programming and kindergarten occurs in the months prior to kindergarten entry. ECI home visitors complete a Transitional Skills Summary (TSS) in early spring for each child that will be entering kindergarten in the fall. The TSS provides a snapshot of where the child is in relation to kindergarten preparedness. These child summaries can then be shared with the school/kindergarten staff so that they can use the information to assist in preparing their classrooms or just to know more about their incoming students.
AMHA’s early childhood continuum concludes with SPARK Ohio’s Get Ready for School program, which provides participants with a smooth transition into kindergarten by offering an on-site, in-school introduction to the school day to make them more comfortable with the classroom by the first day of school.