PDG Progress Notes: Grant funds expand innovative home visiting program

Preschool Development Grant funds expand innovative home visiting program

South Carolina has joined 20 other states in implementing the HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) USA program, an evidence‐based home visiting instruction program designed to improve child outcomes by using intervention to support parents in their role as their children's first and most important teacher. The state’s Preschool Development Grant B-5 funds will fund the affiliate fees, training and resources used, and First Steps AmeriCorps members will put them into action.

In the HIPPY model, Families of at-risk four-year old children will receive a home visit every week for 30 weeks. Fifteen AmeriCorps members will be trained and serve as peer parent educators. Each will work directly at home with a family who would be at risk of early school failure to make sure that they are getting what they need to know and do for kindergarten success. During the pandemic, services will be conducted virtually with plans to transition to in-home visits.

SC First Steps decided to take this international model and implement it specifically targeting the First Steps 4K children. As suggested by the Education Oversight Committee, legislators and the Early Childhood Advisory Council’s own research, one of the elements of the secret to success to kindergarten readiness was not just to provide intervention for the child but also to provide it for the family.

By adding the HIPPY USA to the First Steps 4K program, it creates a model that operates specifically around outcomes. School achievement using HIPPY as a researched based curriculum has been studied and measured. Over 30 years the research shows that the children who participate in the program as three and four-year olds have higher grades in both 3rd and 6th grade. Researchers in states that have kindergarten readiness assessments report that the children also score higher. The children also have improved attendance and parent participation in school, and the teachers report better classroom behavior.

South Carolina First Steps will be the state office responsible for bringing this new model to our state. In addition to being effective in getting children ready for school success, HIPPY is also a workforce investment in its home visitors. The parent educators themselves are demographically and socio-economically reflection of the people they are supporting with home visits. First Steps is specifically looking for caregivers or individuals who have access to 3, 4 or 5-year-olds to fill the AmeriCorps HIPPY roles. As the parent educators gain skills to assist others, they can practice them on their own children to create a double benefit. Members will receive a significant amount of support and training to provide the parent educator tools needed to grow and be successful. HIPPY AmeriCorps workers can potentially receive scholarships, workforce training and childcare vouchers with their participation.  

Cheryl Scales-Chavis has joined the First Steps family parenting team as the HIPPY Parenting Program Coordinator. She will take the lead on implementing HIPPY in eight counties throughout the state. In this role Cheryl will work closely with AmeriCorps members providing services to families.

 “I am excited that South Carolina has brought together funding and programs to make this innovative parent support model a reality,” says Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director for South Carolina First Steps and the Early Childhood Advisory Council. “In addition to being effective for children in getting them ready for school success, HIPPY will also be an amazing workforce investment.”

About the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five

A $3.5 million grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Administration for Children and Families was awarded to the SC Department of Social Services in December 2018. Known as the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through 5 (PDG), this one-year grant required work in five key activity areas over the course of a single year: Needs Assessment; Strategic Planning; Maximizing Parent Knowledge; Sharing Best Practices; and Improving Overall Quality. South Carolina First Steps was a key strategic partner in obtaining and executing the grant, receiving $1.3 million in grant funds and providing more than $1 million in state match. Due to a delay in the receipt of funds a no-cost extension was granted and work on the grant officially concluded on February 29, 2020.

The Preschool Development Birth Through 5 Renewal Grant to build upon the initial work of the PDG grant is a federal grant to support the expansion of early childhood programs and services in South Carolina. The award provides $11 million per year for up to three years. The South Carolina Department of Social Services is executing the grant, and activities are being coordinated and administered by partners SC First Steps, the Department of Education, the SC Head Start Collaboration Office and the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council. Funding will allow South Carolina’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) system to continue to work towards its goal to increase access to quality early childhood programs and services for vulnerable children.

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