SCHOOLS: Of great fiscal importance to the district were findings regarding referrals for special education services, the single most expensive services in the budget. Among Salem preschoolers screened in the year studied, only 14 percent of PCHP students were referred, as opposed to 27 percent of the general population. What does this mean? An example is found in an independent report, produced by the city of New York Office of the Comptroller. Savings, calculated over the course of a child’s education, were $210,000 per child. This was due to reduced need for special education services resulting from home visiting programs that demonstrate reductions in the number of children entering school with developmental delays and subsequent decreased need for school-age special education services. PCHP is precisely that kind of program producing those referral results.
It can thus be concluded that PCHP contributes mightily to a child’s chances to succeed in school throughout his/her career and graduate from high school. It can also be concluded that the meager annual cost of PCHP (approximately $2,800 per parent-child combination) saves enormous amounts of money in unneeded remedial/special education costs.
PARENTS: Another unseen plus of the PCHP is its effect on the parent participants. They gain confidence in themselves, lose their fears of school and continue to participate in their children’s schooling. In fact, of the current seven home visitors in the Salem program, five are former program parents. They bring to the program both the absolute knowledge that it works and a personal understanding of the situations faced by current parents. A shining example is Kelly Welsh, who entered the program as a young mother of four who had herself struggled in school despite her obvious native intelligence and who doubted her ability to help her child. Kelly has been a home visitor for 18 years and is pursuing a degree in early childhood education, something beyond the dreams of the young mother I met 20 years ago.
Much more data from national and regional studies can be found at the PCHP website www.parent-child.org.
Joyce Parent, is co-coordinator for the Salem Parent-Child Home Program. This is one in a series of columns from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.