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Home Visiting: How We Partner with Parents

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At Easterseals serving Chicagoland and Greater Rockford, we have a long history of providing many useful services for the 1 in 4 Americans living with a disability. Our services include things like job training, early education, and early intervention. Our goal is to provide everyone with the resources they need to lead healthy and happy lives. This includes parents and children. 

We get that raising a child is tough, no matter who you are. That’s why we provide services and child care specifically for families.

In Oak Park and River Forest, one useful service we provide to many families is home visiting. If you are a parent looking for more support, read on to learn more about this super helpful, convenient service. It may be right for you!

What Is Home Visiting?

We value parents' roles as teachers in their children’s lives. After all, it’s you who talks to your child throughout the day, teaching them language. It’s you who holds their hands while they waddle around, teaching them to walk. It’s you who points out your child’s favorite weird-looking bug, teaching them to explore. As a parent, you are your child’s teacher, whether you know it or not. 

However, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone in your corner, teaching you? 

That’s what our home visits are for. Through our Partnering with Parents Program, home visits are free  and a certified Parent Educator visits your home twice a month. The Parent Educator’s goal is to support you as a parent and help you understand child development information, stuff that can be confusing to sort through when you already have a ton on your plate. Wondering what having more support could do for your family? A lot! 

Not only do Parent Educators provide at-home support, they can also connect you with other families and help you find local resources. In our view, partnering with parents is one of the best ways to support a child’s wellbeing. 

Home visiting is evidence-based, so there is research to back up this service. The combination of personal visits, family groups, resource access, and development check-ins is meant to:

  1. Help parents learn more about early childhood development and improve their parenting skills
  2. Make sure that parents catch developmental delays or health issues early on
  3. Prevent problems like abuse or neglect
  4. Get children ready for when they start school

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What Is “Parents as Teachers?”

Hopefully, all of this is sounding great. Getting support in your home (aka, no tears and lost shoes as you try to get out the door)? A dream. Parenting education so that you don’t have to figure everything out on your own? Please and thank you. Built-in connections with other parents (aka, friends who will understand)? Yes, yes, and yes! 

We know it all sounds too good to be true. But it’s not, and we have the research to prove it. Parents as Teachers is a framework that came together in the 1980s, when teachers noticed that some kindergarteners were more ready for the school day than others. They realized that this was because some parents were more involved in their kid’s lives than others. So, they created a program to boost parent involvement. 

Over the years, the research showed that this Parents as Teachers (PAT) home visiting program really works. In one study in Switzerland, researchers compared families who received PAT and those who didn’t. They found that PAT (aka, home visiting) helped kids better adapt, develop, and speak.

And the results aren’t only clear in Scandinavia. Recent studies in Connecticut found that PAT significantly reduces child abuse and neglect. Researchers compared two groups of first-time mothers. Both groups were eligible for home visits, but only one group received the service. According to the study, families who received home visits were 22% less likely to have Child Protective Services (CPS) find that they were abusing or neglecting children. That means that each family receiving home visits was nearly a quarter less likely to be mistreating their children than families who did not receive home visits.

The Parents as Teachers project summarized the existing data about their home visiting program. This summary stated that research shows home visits:

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Who Qualifies for Home Visits?

While all parents could benefit from a little extra support, our home visiting program gives priority to certain groups. To qualify for our home visiting program you must live in Oak Park or River Forest and be pregnant or parenting a child under the age of five. Besides that, at least one item on the following list must be true for you (or your partner):

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Image source: unsplash.com 

How Can I Sign Up for Home Visits?

It’s good news that the list of qualifying criteria is long. This means that, if you think home visits may be right for you, they probably are. You will likely qualify. If you want more details or are ready to enroll, call 708.434.2560 or email partneringwithparents@eastersealschicago.org. Please note that home visits are currently being held virtually. We also offer a 12-week parenting workshop (Chicago Parent Program), which is being held online for the time being.

If you do not personally need home visits but know a family who might, please check out our Community Referral Form. There, we will ask you to fill out some basic information about the family you are referring and yourself. We will also ask you to specify whether the parents are aware of your referral or not. Our community referral form is also a good page to check out if you are unsure if you qualify for home visiting.

Home Visiting and Healthy Development

We’ve mentioned that home visits can help you learn how to track your child’s development. Let’s talk more about what this means. At Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford, we know how important the first five years of a child’s life are. We also understand that each child may grow and learn at a unique pace. 

We’ve outlined five areas that count to help you better understand and support your child’s development. Check out our table below where we provide more insight into how we define five key childhood development areas.

Relationships

When you build strong relationships with your kid, you make them feel safe. This trust provides a solid foundation for them to explore and learn. Your relationship with your child also provides an example for their peer relationships. By taking the time to talk and play with your child, you are getting them ready to deal with emotions, frustrations, and future friendships. 

Exploring and Learning

It’s important to allow your child to explore their environment, try new things, and solve problems on their own even when they are small. Not only does it help them understand the world around them, but it also helps them build trust in their own abilities. 

Communication

The more you communicate with your child, the more practice they will have speaking and reading. Make sure you smile, talk, read, and listen (laughter is also great) to your kids as often as you can.

Playing

Don’t be afraid to play pretend, be silly, and have fun with your child. This playtime helps them develop important social, emotional, intellectual, physical, and language skills. What we’re saying here is: kids learn through play! Let them!

Moving

Encourage your kids to move around. Any physical activity–large (like walking) or small (like reaching for a toy)–can help your child’s physical development.

Tracking Childhood Development

One way to track development is with the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3). This tool helps parents understand their young children's development. The ASQ-3 is meant for children between the ages of one month and five and a half years. It asks parents questions about their child’s development in the following areas:

If you would like to use the online ASQ screening tool, Easterseals offers a free version. Click here. The Questionnaire will likely take you 10-20 minutes to complete. ASQ-3 may require you to do a few simple activities with your child to see what their skills are. The activities are fun and simple. Each question will allow you to answer:

This allows you to quickly and effectively measure your child’s current development. Tools like the ASQ-3 are useful because they allow parents and caregivers to notice developmental delays and provide early support. 

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Beyond Home Visiting: Our Other Resources 

Not only do we provide visits to homes, but we also support families in other ways. This includes early learning services, retreats, and sibling support. As we are a healthcare organization, we have many resources especially for children with disabilities and their families. We will discuss a few of these resources below.

Early Learning Services

If you are concerned about your child’s school readiness, our early learning services might be right for your family. We partner with Head Start and Early Head Start locations across the Chicagoland area. We work with these organizations so that all families can ensure their children are ready for school. Our focus is on improving school readiness in young children from families who are at-risk because of their income, location, or other factors. 

This program provides services at Head Start centers around Chicago for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, as well as at-home services for families with children under 3 years old. Home-based services are also available for expecting families. Center-based programs are full-day, year round, and take place in inclusive classrooms. Through our partnership we offer subsidized child care options, meaning that you may be eligible to receive help paying program fees. 

In our home-based program, you and your child will receive 90-minute visits once a week. We have bilingual staff available as well, and will provide you with information about playgroups where you can hang out with other families twice a month.

To enroll in our early learning services program, you can complete an online application. You can also call us at 708.330.4490 (for center-based programs) or 708.330.4541 (for home-based programs). 

Family Support Services

We understand that raising a child with a disability in our society requires extra work and costs. Our family support services are meant to help you through any related challenges you are facing and provide you with opportunities to rest.

Consultation Services 

Sometimes the problems your family is facing may require outside help. We are happy to speak with you about these challenges and work with you to come up with solutions and strategies. We can also connect you with helpful resources in your community. If you need, we are able to help you fill out paperwork and attend meetings with you and your family.

Parent Education and Social Activities

At Easterseals, we work to connect inter-abled families. We believe that–not only does this provide great social opportunities–but it also allows families to exchange their knowledge. We offer resources just for parents (like support groups) as well as services for the whole family (like family fun nights). 

Retreat Yourself

We have planned an annual caregiver “Retreat Yourself” event for the past 12 years. The event is especially for mothers, grandmothers, and aunts who help to raise a child with a developmental disability. This event is a weekend of fun and support. It will give you the opportunity to make friendships with other caregivers and participate in activities outside and inside.

Respite Program

For families living in Winnebago, Boone, or Ogle Counties, we provide an opportunity to take a break from caregiving. This Respite Program serves 10 families of a child with a developmental disability each month, teaching them how to meet their child’s needs.

Sibling Support

We care about the whole family at Easterseals serving Chicagoland & Greater Rockford. That’s why we also provide sibling support. We host an annual event for siblings of children with disabilities. We also provide opportunities for siblings to meet one another, and provide care to children with disabilities so that siblings and parents can have quality time together.

The Corner Room

Our free corner room is home to books, DVDs, internet, a laminator and more. It’s available by appointment Monday through Friday, 8:15am to 4:00pm. 

If you are interested in accessing any of the services listed above, you can contact us at familysupport@eastersealschicago.org. You can also call us at 815.965.5069. We are happy to listen to your family’s needs and do our best to help you meet them.

Parenting is Hard, Home Visiting Helps 

Every family deserves access to the resources and opportunities they need to flourish. Whether or not you are raising a child with a disability, our services may benefit you. Because our home visiting program is ideal for a wide variety of parents, we encourage you to check it out. 

We know parenting is hard, and we’re sending you a virtual high-five for taking the time to seek out the resources you need. Asking for help can be scary, but it’s such an important step in making your family the healthiest and happiest it can be. When you take the time to learn more about parenting and develop new skills, you are setting your kid up for a healthy and supportive upbringing. That is an extremely worthwhile cause that we would be overjoyed to support you in achieving. 

You can call us at 708.434.2560 or email us at partneringwithparents@eastersealschicago.org and get signed up today.

Contact Us

171 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302
708-434-2560 Phone
partneringwithparents@eastersealschicago.org

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