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Thousands of Bay Area children living in poverty graphic

What Do I Do with My Two-Year-Old?

PUBLISHED: Aug 19, 2021

Tipping Point’s Early Childhood portfolio invests in organizations that provide literacy and parenting support to families with children ages 0-3. Under shelter-in-place, many of these low-income families have endured lost wages, lack of internet access, and overcrowded homes leading to an increase in parental stress. On top of securing the basic necessities needed to get by day-to-day, the kinds of questions parents ask under normal circumstances—things like “What do I do to keep my toddler busy and learning?” or “How do I make sure I’m paying enough attention to my youngest when my older kids are constantly telling me what they need?”—have taken on a whole new level of urgency.

By pairing low-income families who have young children with Early Learning Specialists for two years of home visits, Tipping Point grantee ParentChild+ has improved school readiness, early literacy, and social-emotional development for families all across the country since its founding in 1965. But before 2019, ParentChild+ had no presence in the Bay Area. Tipping Point has helped fund the expansion of the organization into the region over the past year, allowing it to ramp up to five Early Learning Specialists serving 68 families in East San Jose.

A ParentChild+ child and her big sister make play-doh with supplies provided during a virtual visit with their Early Learning Specialist. Their mother, who took the photo, is navigating how to keep her children safe, fed, learning, and engaged during this crisis.

As the threat of COVID-19 began to take hold, ParentChild+ proved to be in exactly the right place at the right time. The team of Early Learning Specialists pivoted to connect with families virtually and respond to immediate concerns by translating vital public health information into Spanish and Vietnamese and offering drive-through distribution for items like food, diapers, and cleaning supplies with support from Tipping Point’s Emergency Response Fund.

At the heart of ParentChild+ model are weekly visits from Early Learning Specialists to the parents. “The magic of our model is that it’s built on relationships,” said CEO Sarah Walzer. “Before the crisis, we saw how valuable this was in working with families experiencing homelessness. Our staff may start working with families in shelters and move with them through transitional housing and beyond; often, they are the most consistent social service presence families have. Relationships carry across different home environments and now we see them carry into the virtual environment as well. Despite all the added stress and uncertainty of this time, none of our families are opting out of our services.” The organization has deepened its relationships with parents and children alike.     

In data collected over its 50 years of operation, ParentChild+ has shown tremendous impact. Children who participate in the program are more prepared than their peers to enter kindergarten, have higher English language proficiency when they arrive in the classroom, and go on to perform better in both math and reading by 3rd grade. “The reality of the pandemic is that we will have a whole group of children who will be transitioning into our education system having faced unprecedented levels of isolation,” said Walzer. “It makes our work to ensure this time is as supported and enriching for families as possible that much more important.”


Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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