06/27/05 — Program helps build bridges for Hispanic parents, children

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Program helps build bridges for Hispanic parents, children

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 27, 2005 1:45 PM

The number of Hispanics attending parenting classes has risen dramatically since Michelle Estrada became Latino community educator for Wayne County Partnership for Children.

"The traffic flow through the door has increased so much," said Julie Odom, community services director for the partnership.

Ms. Estrada says she enjoys being a teacher, her previous job working with 3- and 4-year-olds in the preschool program at WAGES. In her new role, though, she also gets to work closely with the family.

The job came about in December when Wachovia Corp. awarded a $45,735 grant to the partnership in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension of Wayne County. Her position is divided between the two groups, 20 hours in partnership programs, 20 hours expanding the Parents as Teachers home visitation program within the Latino community.

Ms. Estrada provides outreach and education into the Latino community, letting families know what programs and services are available to them, often at no cost.

"I help families with More at Four applications, with the lending library, baby baskets and as a translator," she said.

She also talks with families about their needs and has been leading an average of two parenting classes a month, at the partnership office and the library.

And she regularly makes home visits, working with families of children from prenatal care to 3 years old. In the Parents as Teachers program, she works with 20 families, and there is a waiting list for 12 others.

Whether sitting on the floor playing with the children, or talking with parents about child development and issues such as conflict resolution, Mrs. Estrada said she has enjoyed having more contact with parents..

"I love to be in the classroom because I am a teacher," she said. "This is the first time I have worked so close with the family.

"When you're the teacher, to talk to the parent is very hard. Now, you're the teacher for their kids, but you're the parents friend, too. If you can do that when you're a teacher, that helps a lot.

"The parent listens more when you're a friend and not only the teacher."

Making home visits not only builds her relationship with the children she serves; she often becomes like a part of the family.

"You can see the environment where they're from," she said. "It's not the same when they go home ... You can give ideas on how to make that environment better and safer."

Mrs. Odom said the grant was specifically written to serve both partnership and county extension programs because of the home visit aspect.

"Because transportation is often limited in the Hispanic community, this way she takes the program to them," she said.

"It's a good opportunity for them to learn about what's going on in the county, just to learn how to be their child's first teacher."

Making the parenting training available by meeting families where they live or allowing parents to bring children with them has been exciting, Ms. Estrada said.

"I love to hear my phone ring," she said.

Ms. Estrada also leads training for child care providers, offering ideas that can be used to incorporate the Hispanic culture into the classroom and better communicate with the Hispanic parents.