Partnership aims to aid underprivileged families

A USC-affiliated program is conducting a study that will help underserved families gain access to the resources they need for their children to be successful.

The new program combines the national organization Parents as Teachers, which supports families with young children, with USC Telehealth, a virtual counseling and therapy clinic.

Parents as Teachers is interested  in the early development of children. Its model aims to give parents the resources to prepare their children, from birth through kindergarten, for educational success.

USC Telehealth was created in 2012. It delivers evidence-based psychosocial intervention through video technology. This is new to almost all home visitation models; all others have to do with physically going into the home.

Right now, there are various obstacles that prevent Parents as Teachers from reaching more families. Currently, home visitors need to travel to each home, which reduces the amount of time available for the home visitation. It can be difficult for the home visitors to plan each visit, due to the families’ busy schedules. Sometimes, families are uncomfortable with the home visitors entering their residences. Some families live in rural areas, making it difficult for the home visitors to reach them.

The partnership with USC Telehealth aims to eliminate these burdens, allowing Parents as Teachers to provide services to more families in a virtual format.

Angela Rau, virtual parent education coordinator at the Parents as Teachers National Center, said that the partnership with USC Telehealth is imperative for the organization to stay relevant in the digital age.

“Parents as Teachers is interested in looking at ways to engage families and looking at avenues to offer parent education to all families,” Rau said. “In this generation, we have more and more families using technology to get information. We are stepping into the use of the Telehealth platform with USC to be responsive to this generation of families.”

The results of the study will indicate the effectiveness of the partnership. USC School of Social Work graduate fellows have been trained to serve the families using the Parents as Teachers model. Sixty-five families will be included in the study, all recruited from the L.A. Best Babies Network.

iPads are available to those families who do not have access to the technology needed for the video conferences. However, Rau said she has been surprised to discover that the families already have the technology needed.

“A couple of the families that have come in were surprised by how easy it was to come into the video conferencing platform,” Rau said. “It’s making us think that this effort is building the digital literacy of parents.”

Dorian Traube, associate professor at the USC School of Social Work, came up with the idea to put the Parents as Teachers model on the Telehealth platform.

“My initial interest is reducing child maltreatment — reducing the number of families who are engaged by the child welfare system,” Traube said. “We are looking at that, school readiness, and making sure children are receiving intervention if they are experiencing developmental delays.”

By the time a child growing up in poverty reaches age 3 he or she has heard, on average, 3 million fewer words than a child who is not growing up in poverty.

Jamie Goodpaster, content manager at Parents as Teachers, looks forward to a long-lasting relationship with the University.

“We are excited about partnering with the University of Southern California, and we are hoping to have a long, positive relationship,” Goodpaster said. “We are looking forward to the research outcome of the program.”