New England News
4:03 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Early Childhood Home Visit Program Expands in Berkshire County

A federal program that assists at-risk families in preparing their young children with the basic reading and cognitive skills they’ll need before entering kindergarten is expanding in the Berkshires. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard has more…

Child Care of the Berkshires is entering a partnership with the Central Berkshire Regional School District to bring trained home-visitors to the homes of ten families to assist with early learning. The Federal Parent-Child Home program helps at-risk youth aged 18 months to three become prepared with basic skill they’ll need to attend kindergarten. Amy Hall, Director of Child Care of the Berkshires says the home visits are aimed at getting a child interested in learning.

Under the expansion, the Central Berkshire Regional School District is looking for ten families to participate in the home-visit program. Superintendent of Central Berkshire Bill Cameron says the visits also serve to encourage the parent to take a primary educational role with their children.

Central Berkshire is not the only school district that is participating in the area, though. For 43 years, Pittsfield Public Schools have utilized the program. Sue Doucette, early childhood coordinator for Pittsfield Public Schools says that 20 years of data and testing show stronger language and cognitive development of children entering kindergarten as a result of the twice-weekly home-visits.

Recent MCAS testing showed that schools in North Adams, Adams, and Pittsfield are underperforming. Programs like Berkshire United Way’s Pittsfield Promise initiative are aimed at improving 3rd grade reading scores.

Doucette says working with very young children puts them on a path for stronger academic performance throughout their student careers.

Pittsfield Public Schools supports the program through allocations in its annual budget, as well as funding from the Massachusetts Office of Early Childhood Education. Doucette says the district also recently received a $2,000 grant from Target stores to assist with the program.

Central Berkshire Regional School District Superintendent Bill Cameron says that their pilot program is successful, they’ll continue with it next year, though they’ll need to bring on more help in addition to Childcare of the Berkshires.