The model for the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) was developed by Phyllis Levenstein for her doctoral dissertation in the 1960s, based on her theory that the most effective way to reduce high school dropout rates—and thus break the cycle of poverty—would be to work with parents and children before the children entered school. In her book, Messages from Home: The Mother-Child Home Program and the Prevention of School Disadvantage (1988),* Dr. Levenstein writes that:
Talking to infants comes naturally to all mothers (or mother substitutes). For most mothers, especially those who are at least high school graduates, talking to baby becomes conversation. The dialogue is often focused around the toys and books that middle-income parents can afford. The Program's hypothesis was that this verbal interaction gradually fosters a parent-child network that is both intellectually and emotionally supportive for the child, whatever the family's ethnolinguistic style....
The Program's view was that family factors linked to poverty often hamper the full development of the parent-child network. For children thus at risk for educational disadvantage, an intervention program should begin at home when they are about two years old. The program should center around toys and picture books of high quality, permanently assigned to the family and used as the focus of the child's verbally oriented play with his or her mother. The mother herself might make gains in parenting skills and self-esteem through her participation in the Program.
Levenstein's first pilot demonstrated short-term cognitive gains from participation in the program. Based on these promising results, she focused on researching the model's effectiveness and developing a small number of replications to duplicate the model program's results. By 1975, there had been four replications, all with positive results. And in 1978, the Parent-Child Home Program, Inc., was incorporated as an independent non-profit to support the spread of the PCHP model. There are currently 136 replications in the United States, each of which costs approximately $2,000 per year per child.
Replications are sponsored by schools, school districts, public libraries, social service agencies, and community-based organizations that are willing to provide meeting space and secure funding. Each replication is run by a Coordinator with a background in early childhood education or working with at-risk children. Coordinators must receive three days of initial training by the Program's national staff and submit a program implementation plan to establish a replication. The Coordinator receives extra training and supervision throughout the first two years of the replication; during that time, members of the national staff visit to sit in on meetings, check files, and observe home visits. Only minor modifications of the program are allowed to suit individual communities. If all goes well, the replication is certified at the end of two years as an authentic PCHP site—but sites are still required, annually, to document that they are following PCHP procedures.
For more information, visit PCHP's Web site at www.parent-child.org. To inquire about establishing a replication, contact the Parent-Child Home Program's National Center at 516-883-7480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Mother-Child Home Program was the name first given to this intervention. It was changed in 1998 to Parent-Child Home Program to reflect its applicability to both mothers and fathers. (back to article)
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