A program aimed at aiding parents of young children is still working strong in Hollister Public Schools nearly 35 years after its inception.
Traci Canote, lead parent educator with Hollister Parents as Teachers, said the program will have been in operation 35 years in 2019.
“It’s a national program now, but it’s been in Missouri since day one,” Canote said. “We were a pilot program 35 years ago here in Hollister.”
Signed into state law by former Governor Kit Bond, Canote said every district is required to offer some form of Parents as Teachers, but budget cuts have caused some districts to have to cut back on services.
“A budget cut several years back in 2008 and 60 percent of our state budget was taken out completely so PAT services came to a screeching halt,” Canote said.
“In Hollister we thought ‘What are we going to do?’ but our board said ‘Full services, you’re funded’ and other districts saw that and said ‘If Hollister is going to do it we will too,’ and it’s been kind of a trickle down effect.”
“I think without other resources and word-of-mouth our program wouldn’t be as successful as it is,” said Alyssa Ambrosier, a parent educator added. “We get so many of our families through word-of-mouth.”
According to Canote, the program serves as a free early childhood parent support program, which serves families throughout pregnancy until kindergarten.
“We do personal visits, developmental screenings, group connections to get parents involved in school and connected with each other and resource networking in the community,” Canote said.
Meranda Trinkle, a parent currently participating in the program, said she heard about the program through a friend. Trinkle said she grew up with some learning disabilities and wanted to screen her children for them as well.
“It was important for me to know what signs to look for and what I could do to help put them on track so they wouldn’t have the same issues as I did,” Trinkle said. “So when Parents as Teachers came in they helped guide me and showed me milestones for each of my children and where they should be at each time, and if I ever had any questions about what my child was going through I could go to Parents as Teachers, and within a day or two they’d come back with a bunch of information on how to address certain things.”
Jayme Lowe, a junior at Hollister High School and mother, said she’s been involved in Parents as Teachers since April of 2017.
Lowe said the program has helped tremendously in both her roles as a parent and student
“After I started Parents as Teachers I didn’t have my emotional wrecks. I’ve been able to stop and try to think,” Lowe said. “I’ve grown comfortable with people and been more social. I’ve actually thought about Parents as Teachers as something I’ve wanted to get involved with and help others."
April Loftis, a parent who used to be involved in the program, said Parents as Teachers helped her learn how to teach her children.
“It’s another piece to the puzzle,” Loftis said. “I was able to get a lot of information that way,”
While Canote said the number of families served by the program fluctuates, currently, there are 77 families who receive home visits and 274 families with developmental screenings.
“Any given week, we might not enroll any new families or we might enroll 10. It depends on the community,” she said.
Canote said services through Parents as Teachers are provided free of charge, and parents don’t have to wait until they have a child of preschool age.
“We encourage every child be screened every year, from the age of 4 months until they’re 3 (years),” Canote said. “Because the earlier we can identify any developmental concerns, the better chance a child can get those early developmental services and we can connect them with resource.”
Canote said the only qualifications for a parent wishing to receive Hollister PAT services is to have a child, prenatal through kindergarten, and live in Hollister.
Canote said every school district should have some form of PAT available.
“Just call the district and ask for Parents as Teachers,” Canote said. “They can do that for any district in Missouri.”
For more information on Hollister PAT, call 417-243-4058 or on Facebook by searching “Hollister R-V Parents as Teachers.”