When Jefferson Laffey and Arlenne Piña moved to Nogales from Hermosillo, Sonora, as husband and wife, they wanted a strong start for their family.
Piña was passionate about education and decided to pursue her General Educational Development diploma. In class, she heard about other community resources that would teach her about early childhood development and best parenting practices, which she wanted to learn for her two young children, Douglass, age 3, and Audubon, age 1.
One of the resources that caught her attention was the Santa Cruz County Superintendents Office Los Padres son los Primeros Profesores (Parents are the First Teachers) home visitation program. The First Things First Santa Cruz Regional Partnership Council funds the program, which provides parents with no-cost, in-home visits from a parent educator who teaches parents how to support their children’s emotional, cognitive and physical development. The program supports parents with children from pregnancy up to age 5.
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“Our main purpose is to strengthen the parent and child interactions,” said Georgina Parra, Los Padres home visitation program director. “We lend them books, bring activities and do screenings. If a screening detects an issue, then we refer parents to the proper services to address the issue.”
Piña wanted to learn the best way to care for her children so they could do well in kindergarten and in life.
“My husband and I want to have successful kids,” said Piña. “We knew if we did good things for them as children, then we wouldn’t need to worry about them in the future. We wanted to learn the best things we could do for our kids now, and this program has been helping us a lot.”
A parent educator helped Piña prepare Douglass for kindergarten by teaching him to write his name, identify colors and count. For Audubon, Piña found out about tummy time and crawling. Piña learned effective discipline techniques, milestones for each age and the importance of reading.
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“I learned what I should read at each stage of development and how I can teach them while I read to them,” said Piña. “For Douglass, now I’m asking him questions to help him use his imagination. I ask him questions like: ‘How could you change the ending of that story? What would you do if you were that kid?’”
Piña’s parent educator also connected her to local resources and other supports.
“We refer our parents to family support groups so they can connect to the community,” said Parra.
Piña said the support groups were helpful.
“Once a month, they have meetings, and I have met a lot of mothers there,” said Piña. “It’s a good experience, because I can speak with the other parents about raising kids. It’s a really nice community.”
As Piña’s children continue to excel in their development and get ready for kindergarten, she is excited to see what the future holds for them and hopes other people in Nogales will use the program.
“I’m very grateful for this program,” said Piña. “This type of program helps the community to have better citizens, because childhood so very important. It’s the foundation that a life is built on.”