KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools has a program called 'Parents as Teachers.'
The free program is built to educate children long before the step into a classroom, or even walk.
It's a home visiting program for parents who have children prenatal to three years old.
"Our home visits are fun," Parent Educator, Leonae Delatorre said. "We're bringing in fun activities. We're teaching them how to make homemade toys from the things that they have in the home. So, we're trying to tell parents that you don't have to spend a whole bunch of money to help your kiddo learn."
Parent educators visit the homes year-round for about an hour to walk parents through a variety of resources and activities for their child.
"I think it's a fantastic program because our philosophy really is that parents are their child's first and most important teacher," Delatorre said. "So we work hard to partner with our families and help them and help their child learn."
Parents learn about discipline, toilet training, car passenger seat safety, safe sleeping and cost effective activities to do with their children.
"We're all car seat technicians so we can make sure that families, parents have their kids riding in the appropriate car seats for their age," Delatorre said. "We really talk to the parents about topics they're interested in and the things that they want information on."
For new mom, Cindy Palomo, she said it's been an eye-opener.
"My wife and I actually joined this program when our daughter was nine months old, and I didn't even know anything about this until she told me about the program and we were excited about doing it," Palomo said. "It's amazing to get more information better educating ourselves we're constantly learning. We want to learn as much as we can to help her."
Palomo said the in-home visits with her parent educator allows them to work on their daughter's development.
"You know, I come from a large family and I have lots of nieces and nephews, so I thought I knew everything about little kids and babies, and it's amazing how things change," Palomo said. "Your social environment changes, education changes. And having Shelly come and give us new tips and new ideas is literally blowing my mind, like, you know. Like, learning different things to help Naomi, you know, get better and learning, learning different things, so it's just, it's amazing."
At the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools central office, parent educators also provide group meet-ups for families.
"Having us get together with other families is like, you know, been really helpful for Naomi to kind of come out of her own shell and be around other kids so that's been helpful for us," Palomo said.
The focus is to prepare students for school.
"In the cases where they may not be meeting those milestones, we can provide some resources and some referrals to make sure your kid is actually school ready," Delatorre said. "The program is huge in identifying any challenges or delays early and helping families get the support that they need."
Another strong focus of the program is reducing infant mortality rates in Wyandotte County, which has one of the highest rates in the state. Between 2013 and 2017, there were 94 infant deaths in the county.
"All of us are trained in safe sleep education. So we're educating families the safest and best place for their baby to sleep," Delatorre said. "We're also making sure that moms are getting, and attending their pre-natal care , getting their prenatal appointments. And we're also talking about healthy births and birth spacing after their pregnancy."
The global program is one of several in districts across the greater Kansas City metro, including: Lee's Summit, Olathe, Kansas City, Liberty, Center, North Kansas City, Raymore-Peculiar, Shawnee Mission School District and Park Hill.
To see if your district is part of the program or to learn more, you can contact the district's office.