By Kate McGilly
As part of an innovative program through Focus St. Louis, I just spent a weekend learning a lot about social services and the criminal justice system in the St. Louis region. I had the opportunity to visit various social service agencies serving the poor, homeless and unemployed, take part in a poverty simulation exercise and hear from experts on the criminal justice system.
Two things struck me the most. One is that transportation issues are a hugely significant issue for the poor. For the most part, when reliable transportation isn’t available, people can’t get to their jobs or schools, and can’t easily access needed social services. The second is that time and again it was implied, either directly or indirectly, that one of the root causes of crime, child abuse, and substance abuse is a lack of strong, stable, positive adult influences in the lives of children.
What does this have to with Parents as Teachers? Well, for one thing, the value of a program that brings needed service directly to families rather than making them find their own way to these services cannot be understated. By providing parents with support and encouraging them to take an active part in their child’s learning and development, Parents as Teachers helps parents provide that critical stable influence for their children.
I came away from my weekend experience knowing there are a lot more problems out there than any one person or program can solve, but I felt very sure that programs like Parents as Teachers are a critical part of the solution.