By LARA HAMDAN • FEB 13, 2019
Constance Gully’s first encounter with the home-visiting Parents as Teachers (PaT) program was 24 years ago, when she became pregnant and experienced complications and preterm labor.
“I was afraid,” Gully explained to host Don Marsh on Wednesday. “Every parent wants what's best for their child; and regardless of their economic or educational status, every parent can be a great parent, but we don't always have the confidence to know that.
Parents as Teachers is great to provide parents with the affirmation to just let them know you can take these particular steps to help add value to your child's development and let parents know that they play a role.”
Fast forward to the present day, Gully is now the CEO of the organization. She joined Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air to talk about the organization’s efforts to promote optimal early development in children by educating and engaging parents and guardians.
“[When] we buy a car, you get an owner's manual that tells you when to get it serviced. When we have a baby, we don't get any instructions,” she said. PaT focuses on families in the prenatal stage through kindergarten.
“Parents are their children's first and best teachers. So because 80 percent of rapid brain development occurs before the age of three, there are lots of things that a parent can do to engage and advance their child's development,” Gully added.
The national organization, which began and is headquartered in St. Louis, uses an approach that incorporates home visits by “parent educators,” health/developmental screenings, support groups and connections to community resources. It is currently celebrating its 35th anniversary through a series of community-engagement projects.
PaT works in various communities including: urban, rural, Native American reservations and overseas in the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany. They collaborate with local organizations, schools districts and faith-based organizations that implement home-visiting models to help expand opportunities for parents.