Head Start’s Abriendo Puertas program trains Latino parents

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    Head Start Abriendo Puertas

    Parent participants are awarded certificates at the end of the THS workshops at Liechty Middle School. (Photo/ Families In Schools)

    The success of your children in school is important, but so is the success of your children’s classmates. Sometimes we get so tied up in making sure our kids are provided for that we forget about the success of the other kids in our children’s community, the ones that will be our children and our grandchildren’s farmers, bakers, barbers, plumbers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc.

    One in five American children is Latino, and by 2030 the ratio is projected to reach one in three. School success for Latino children is becoming increasingly important: “The success of Latino students is inextricably tied to the nation’s future, and families are at the center of ensuring their success,” said Adrián A. Pedroza, a member of President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

    According to a brief published today by a team at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development led by Margaret Bridges, “Latino communities, much-lauded child-rearing traditions consistently produce healthy birth outcomes, strong early social skills, nurturing families, and a rich cultural heritage (Crosnoe, 2006; Fuller et al., 2009). But the tough economic realities facing many Latinos—with more than one-third of Latino children living in poverty (Nepomnyaschy, 2007)—may eclipse these assets, especially in the areas of education and health.

    Head Start Abriendo Puertas program

    Mother reading with her daughter in Abriendo Puertas program. (Photo/ Berkeley Univ.)

    Many Latino children start kindergarten six months cognitively behind their non-Latino peers. This lag marks the beginning of an achievement gap in literacy, math and general learning that continues, culminating with Latino children at great risk for dropping out of high school and—for those who do graduate from high school—low rates of college completion (Fry & Lopez, 2012; Fuller et al., 2009; Reardon & Galindo, 2009). What’s more, compared to their non-Latino peers, these youth also exhibit high rates of obesity, which is linked to serious health problems (Escarce, Morales, & Rumbaut, 2006).”

    Mitt Romney and Barack Obama both said in the presidential debate that parents are responsible for the success of their children. But if the parents lack preparation or time, it’s difficult for them to support their children in school.

    Abriendo Puertas by Head Start: Educating parents

    Recognizing that parent involvement is key, a program by Head Start, a 10-class program by the name of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors has been training parents to support their children to get ready for school since 2007, reaching now 22,000 families in 31 states and Puerto Rico.

    Head Start also conducts three-day courses to teach local educators, community leaders and facilitators about this program, and how to bring it into their local communities.

    The UC Berkeley brief says that this parenting program appears to significantly boost Latino parents’ knowledge about improving their children’s language and literacy, social-emotional skills, and health. The study also concludes that not only do the children benefit, but also the parents, who gain knowledge about their rights as parents and their children’s rights, as well as self-confidence in parenting and teaching skills.

    Head Start Abriendo Puertas program

    A mother proudly displays her Abriendo Puertas training certificate. (Photo/ Berkeley Univ.)

    “Parental involvement and community engagement are core elements of how Head Start has provided more than 27 million children a window of opportunity for success in life,” says Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors counteracts the damaging effects of inequity and is a positive catalyst toward positive generational change.”

    The course, in English or Spanish, teaches parents practices for positive action in five areas:

    • Early learning and development, such as the importance of preschool and how children’s brains develop
    • Communication and family goal-setting
    • Nutrition and exercise
    • Understanding parent responsibilities and advocating for their children’s right to a quality education
    • Library visits

    As a parent that has volunteered countless hours in elementary school with my two sons, I’m happy that parent involvement is being talked about at a national level. Now that my sons are in high school, where parent participation is not necessarily welcome, I really miss spending time in the classroom. I feel like I learned more from the children than they learned from me.

    The UC Berkeley study evaluated 623 parents in 35 programs in six states, most of them immigrants from Mexico, before and after going through the program, showing the improvement in the parents. A little over a quarter reported finishing elementary school, and 27 percent said they had a high school diploma or attended some college. Most said they had two children.


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