Pictured left: Beth Eberly, Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, conducts a Parents as Teachers virtual home visit.
Pictured right: Monessen Family Center has been doing virtual visits with families, including finger painting.
The COVID-19 pandemic has directly impacted Parents as Teachers (PAT) families and providers across the country. Usually, PAT professionals are welcomed into families’ homes every day, to support parents as their child’s most influential teacher in life. These personal visits involve three parts: parent-child activities in which a parent can play with and guide his or her child in exploring new concepts depending on the age of the child; child development and parenting strategies discussion; and family well-being issues.
With the closure of schools and other community-based programs, both families and program providers wondered, “How do we continue this work?” In response, Parents as Teachers National Center issued guidance for internet and telephone visits to take place with families
“We have received positive feedback from our families about doing the virtual visits,” said Lisa Milan, director of Greene County Family Center. “They enjoy the visits and having some type of normalcy with everything going on. We have been thanked for contacting and supporting them.”
The Pennsylvania PAT state office at the Center for Schools and Communities has provided a forum for sharing thoughts, innovative approaches and concerns through weekly Supervisor’s Learning Community sessions. They share updates from the PAT National Center, and everyone has an opportunity to celebrate successes in conducting visits and brainstorm solutions to barriers, such as limited internet access or telephone data plans and dwindling concrete supports for families facing a loss of wages.
“Pennsylvania PAT continues to emphasize ways helping professionals can create environments in which families can build protective factors that keep them strong,” said Karen Shanoski, Pennsylvania Parents as Teachers state office director.
PAT providers continue to support parents’ understanding of child development and how these times may affect even young children’s emotional well-being, and they provide connections to resources that are needed. Families are demonstrating their resilience in amazing ways. Pennsylvania PAT encourages us all to remember that while we are physically distant, we can stay socially connected.
Pennsylvania PAT is an initiative of Center for Schools and Communities, a division of Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit.
Aylissa Kiely, (717) 903-0219