The second phase of Precious Minds, New Connections was focused on creating parenting education programs in our four counties that would be accessible to and appropriate for a wide range of audiences by establishing new programs, using proven curricula, that could reach out to all parents of very young children.
Selecting Parenting Education Curricula
In late 2000 – early 2001, we searched for every program that focused on very young children and included information on brain development. Ten programs were found and a copy of each was requested. (The ten programs evaluated were: Born to Learn, Common Sense Parenting of Toddlers and Preschoolers, The Early Years, HIPPY Program, Infant Toddler Training, Words for the Future, Nurturing Program for Parents of Preschoolers, Practical Parent Education, Star Parenting Program and STEP Early Children Program.)
We enlisted the help of six local experts in either child development or parent education. Those consultants were:
- Linda Ruhmann, Professor of Child Development, San Antonio College
- Laura Beizer, Ph.D., Director, Ellison Family Center, Palo Alto College
- Alissa Levey Baugh, Director, Child Care Center, Jewish Community Center
- Harriet Romo, Ph.D., Professor, Evaluator of HeadStart and other child-focused programs, UTSA
- Jeff Garrison-Tate, Executive Director, Brighton School
- John Delgado, Director, PACES (an Early Childhood Intervention program under Center for Health Care Services).
Our panel then evaluated the programs using the following eight criteria:
- Content/Topic Areas: Does the curriculum address a comprehensive set of key content areas?
- Depth of Content Area: Does the curriculum address content areas with an adequate level of depth?
- Sound/Multiple Teaching Approaches Used for Parents: Does the curriculum attend to a variety of learning styles and encourage or require trainers to use a comprehensive or multi-faceted set of teaching approaches?
- Flexibility of Curriculum: Is it responsive to various audience populations?
- Focus on Parenting and Children Under 4 years of age: Is a significant proportion of the curriculum focused on parenting this age group?
- Research-based and Supported by Evaluation Data: Is brain research included and does data indicate program is effective?
- Reinforcement beyond curriculum is provided: Are ideas and techniques for ongoing parental interaction included?
- Curriculum is culturally responsive: Will the program work well with non-Anglo populations?
Each curriculum was evaluated by at least two experts. Each person scored the curriculum, then met in teams of two and debated their ratings if they differed. Each team then submitted one set of ratings for each program. We met as a group and compared all scores in a thorough discussion. In the end, four curricula were selected on the basis of meeting the criteria listed above. The four curricula that were selected are:
- Born to Learn,
- The Early Years,
- The Nurturing Program, and
- Words for the Future.
Each of these programs had a heavy 0-3-year-old focus and emphasized brain development throughout. In addition, all had expert training facilitators and high expectations for how their program should be implemented. Born to Learn, The Early Years and The Nurturing Program were comprehensive programs that would be made available for developing new parenting education programs.
The Words for the Future curriculum was an excellent program and culturally responsive to Hispanic families. Its primary feature was one of using a story telling approach for teaching and learning. We provided this curriculum to each of the original collaborations and considered the curriculum to be a supportive program to the other three curricula.
Casting the Net Wide: Looking for Partners
In early 2001, we sent over 1000 letters to individuals asking them if they had access to parents of children under the age of four and, if so, would they be interested in providing parent education to those parents? Responses were received from 104 organizations and each sent two representatives to a Technical Assistance Conference held at the Radisson Hotel in July 2001.
At the Technical Assistance Conference, the four curricula were presented and our message was:
We have the money to educate all the parents that you represent, but we do not have enough money to develop 104 individual programs. Help us solve the equation! Select the program that would work best with your parent population and then develop networks that will reduce costs and allow all parents to participate.
As a result of the Technical Assistance Conference, 61 of the 104 organizations joined the Foundation in its goal. They, in turn, brought in an additional 31 organizations. The 92 agencies created 30 collaborative groups that applied for funding.
In April 2002, the Foundation announced 26 grants involving 83 organizations, including 9 to organizations that would be conducting new parenting education aimed solely at parents they served in their current programs, generally special needs populations, and 2 to organizations to expand existing parenting education programs. The other 15 grants were to collaborative groups that included 72 different organizations. The collaborative partners included churches, day care centers, libraries, the San Antonio Housing Authority and many other organizations serving children and families. The initial grants in Phase II were three-year grants with annual performance reviews and aggregated $8.9 million.
Since most of the 26 grants involved agencies new to parenting, the Foundation developed a database software package, originally in Microsoft Access, to facilitate registration, class scheduling, attendance recording and collection of evaluation data. This software package has been through a few iterations and now is web-based as described elsewhere in the section of this website.
The initial three-year grant periods gave the agencies confidence in the long-term commitment of the Foundation to the Initiative. The 100% funding of each of the new programs ensured sustainability and contributed to both commitment and retention of key personnel.
Following the completion of the initial three years of grants in both Phase I and Phase II, the Foundation adopted an expedited annual grant renewal process wherein the