© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Parents as Teachers adapts to meet needs of families with trauma

Parent educator MacKenzie Grayson gets acquainted with a mother and her daughter who live in the Normandy School District. (Oct. 16, 2016)
Provided | Parents as Teachers
Parent educator MacKenzie Grayson gets acquainted with a mother and her daughter who live in the Normandy School District.

Parents as Teachers is launching its national conference in St. Louis Monday with a forum on how to serve families who’ve experienced trauma.

Parent educators who work in communities where families are more likely to be traumatized by violence or stressed by living paycheck to paycheck are spending the day sharing best practices they’ve learned in the field.

Experts who’ve studied health, economic and racial disparities in St. Louis will also address the group.

Cheryl Dyle-Palmer, chief diversity officer, said the inspiration for the forum comes from the work the Parents as Teachers National Center has done with Normandy Schools over the past two years.

For the most part, Parents as Teachers provides curriculum and training so schools across the country can offer home-based, early childhood interventions to help parents prepare their kids for kindergarten. But the St. Louis-based organization worked directly with Normandy.

“Where the needs are greater we’re learning what it means to not only partner with the parent and teach the parent-child development and what to look for in milestones and assist the child with their health and development, but in order to do that we need to meet them where they are,” Dyle-Palmer said.

“We spend much of our time having to listen to where the parent is, and what the parent needs before we can get back to the business of what the child needs,” Dyle-Palmer said. “Because if the family isn’t safe, the child will not be safe. If the family is experiencing a deficit in something, then the child will experience that.”

Parent educator Chris Chambers visits homes in Normandy. Chambers said financial struggles are the biggest worry of families he works with. Parents with often also ask him about how to discipline their children.

He carries a resource book so he can connect families to food banks and anything else they might need. And he makes sure to ask parents how they’re doing.

“For that hour they kind of get someone to talk to if they don’t have anyone to talk to, especially if they don’t have anyone who’s supportive. Sometimes you just need that ear to listen to,” Chambers said.

His focus is on helping families eliminate barriers that might make it harder for children to learn.

“I know you can’t eliminate them all, because that’s life and life happens. But if you can, reduce them … so that they are successful once they enter kindergarten. Because that’s kind of like the foundation that’s going to help you and lead to more learning as you get older,” Chambers said.

Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.