New program gets parents involved in early childhood development

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WESTON, W.Va. (WDTV)- A program to support families with small children is getting its start in Lewis and Upshur counties. Parents as Teachers Home Visitation gets parents involved in their child's early learning development.

According to the Center for American Progress, home visits with the program lead to less substance abuse, child neglect, juvenile delinquency, and fewer ER visits. But one new parent in Lewis County got involved for a simpler reason.

"Since I'm a first-time mom it kind of just helped me out to start understanding," said Victoria Simons. "Going, 'Okay well this isn't happening, is this okay?' And that's when they started bringing in things and it makes all kinds of sense now."

Those "things" the home visitors bring are play activities for the parent and child to enhance certain developmental skills. They set goals and check the child and family's progress in meeting them. Being able to check off development milestones has put Simons' mind more at ease.

"At first it terrified me," Simons said about being a mother. "I had no idea what I was doing. I called my mother all the time saying, 'Is this what's supposed to be going on?'"

Now she knows for sure through development screenings.

"That will tell me if there is any deficits in any domain," said home visitor Amanda Woody. "So if they're lacking in communication or language skills I'll bring activities that cater to that and try to enhance that."

The program also helps with basic needs for families. The supervisor says grandparents with questions about raising their grandchildren and families struggling with substance abuse are especially helped by the home visitation locally.

"Sometimes things get distracted in a family, but we've got to remember that our most important focus on the future has to be the well-being of the child," said Supervisor Barbara Tucker. "So it's not just here locally it's everywhere. Everybody needs to remember."

Tucker says the personalized curriculum for Parents as Teachers is based off data about early childhood development. She says kids that have gone through the program are more ready to start school, both on academic and behavioral levels.

Learn how you can take part in free developmental activities next weekend in Tucker's interview in the video above.