The Washington School District’s Parents as Teacher (PAT) program continues to grow, enrolling 100 new families since the start of the school year.

Currently, the program is serving nearly 400 families, according to Pat Frank, coordinator.

“The PAT staff also has scheduled many additonal development screenings at area preschools this year,” she said. “The need for the program is evident.

“Our staff is doing their best to keep up with the constant concerns and needs of previously enrolled families, working with the new families and incorporating a new curriculum, despite limited staff hours,” she said.

Parents as Teachers is a mandated program in the state of Missouri; however state funding cuts have forced programs, like Washington, to scale back their services and staff in many areas.

Frank said PAT staff are often the very first contact with families in the school district.

“Through personal visits and screenings, we identify children with developmental, vision and hearing delays, and with the parent’s consent, may refer them to First Steps or Early Childhood Special Education,” she said.

“We have completed over 400 screenings as of Feb. 1,” she noted.

Screenings are offered to all of the district’s Growing Place preschools, as well as all community preschools that are in the boundaries of the school district.

The PAT also conducts kindergarten screenings for those entering the public schools.

Frank said PAT staff members have been attending many workshops and are involved with online training to improve their knowledge of autism awareness.

“This has been so valuable since we are with families with babies and very young children who have concerns,” she said. “Many parents have observed some ‘red flags’ and want to know what the next step may be.”

Frank said the teen parent program at Washington High School, run by PAT, has been very successful in providing child development information, as well as assisting the student so she can graduate and continue her education.

“Our grant from the FCCRB (Franklin County Children’s Resource Board) is so helpful with this program,” she said, adding that about nine students are participating in the program at this time.

PAT also continues to work with several Spanish-speaking families who are learning English.

Early Intervention

Frank said early interventions, like those offered by PAT, save the school district money in the long run, while providing much needed services to children and families.

The PAT staff is very excited about the district’s proposed bond issue. If approved, the district will build an early childhood center to bring all of the early childhood programs — Parents as Teachers, early childhood special education and in-town preschools — under one roof.

“We could all work together as a seamless unit which would be wonderful,” she said.

For more information about the Parents as Teachers program, call 636-231-2820.