08: Home Visitation to Help Parents
In the same Scotts Miracle-Gro building in Port Washington where the foundation established its headquarters, an organization called the Parent-Child Home Program had space. Its founding idea was the reduction of high-school dropouts by starting early, with visitors from the program working to improve the verbal interaction between parent and child and to encourage reading and literacy. Amy had been giving the group regular grants from her fund at LICF, and she knew their work.
“She was wonderful,” said Sarah Walzer, executive director of Parent-Child Home. “She really got the program, because she was an early childhood person. She was a great champion for us on Long Island with other funders and at the state level.” It was in 1997, the year Walzer became executive director, that the Horace and Amy fund began giving the program grants. “They were one of the original funders of what became the national office,” Walzer said.
It was typical of Amy’s leadership style that she mentioned Parent-Child Home to Parmely, but without a command that the new foundation should continue supporting it, as Amy’s fund had. She left it to Parmely to examine the program and decide for herself. “If Amy’s saying it, I’m going to definitely look into it,” Parmely said. “But it was never forced on me.”
Once Parmely had a chance to look more closely at Parent-Child Home, she liked what she saw. She approved of its decision not to hold itself out as an evidence-based program in order to get government funding. “Evidence-based means you have to have a control group that is denied the services,” Parmely said. Parent-Child Home wasn’t interested in denying anyone services. She also liked the program’s approach, using trained paraprofessionals to visit homes.
“They walk in as an equal,” Parmely said. “They sit on the floor with the child, to show the parent, but not tell the parent, ‘This is what you do.’ They do not replace the parent.” In addition to the personal training, Parent-Child Home provided a bridge between the family and the world outside its walls. “They provide a relationship to the broader community that, as a parent in a very stressed family situation, you might not have access to,” Parmely said. “It’s a respectful, professional, collegial parent skill-building program.”
Despite the program’s worth, getting it governmental funding in New York has been difficult. So a key goal of the foundation’s work has been to make Parent-Child Home more visible, both locally and in Albany, and to find ways of getting the program a secure and reliable flow of state dollars. “New York State is not funding it in a way that other states are, where it’s part of the budget,” Parmely said. “It’s always a struggle.”
In that struggle, the foundation’s support has been a reliable ally of Parent-Child Home. “I think it’s been invaluable, in terms of our ability to maintain a base of services here on Long Island. There are not that many private funders on Long Island, particularly who fund early childhood work,” Walzer said. “Their support has been critical to our ability to focus on building our visibility at the state level.”