A 2014 study conducted by the Springfield Mayor’s Commission on Human Rights showed that 28 percent of the city’s kids aren’t prepared for kindergarten. Contributing factors included lack of access to quality health care and early education services and disparities in health and wellness.
A federal grant announced today for Springfield Public Schools’ Parents as Teachers program will help address those needs. The $250,000 Healthy Tomorrows grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration will be used for Community Connections—a project that will work to make sure kids prenatal through age six are healthy and are ready to learn when they start kindergarten.
Missy Riley, director of Early Childhood Education and Parents as Teachers for SPS, said, while the specifics are still being worked out, one thing that’s already being arranged is to place a Parents as Teachers educator in a local pediatrician’s office.
"To be available to talk to families and to continue the work that pediatricians are doing in the office and take it into the home as necessary," she said.
According to Riley, the project is aimed at building connections between parent educators and area healthcare providers.
"It just seems like a really natural fit that we'd be working with pediatricians; that we'd be working with home healthcare nurses, possibly dentists, possibly mental health professionals to extend what they're doing in the office," she said.
The National Center for Parents as Teachers pursued the grant for the local district because they said the project partners—Springfield Parents as Teachers and the Every Child Promise community coalition--have consistently shown their ability to work together. The grant will be supplemented with $500,000 in private matching funds, which are still being sought.
After it’s implemented, the Community Connections project is expected to serve as a model for the rest of the country.