We’ve heard a lot about the pandemic. Whereas the stories are often sad, no matter what, nothing can drown out the Song of Sixpence. The Song of Sixpence carries the same melody as Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, one which resounds, one that every child deserves to sing.
Sixpence’s song is that of our own: it is the song of all children being heard and thriving.
The song of Sixpence can be heard far and wide, especially in Schuyler, Nebraska! We’re glad to share more community success stories straight from one of our Early Childhood initiatives, Sixpence, which ensures that our state’s most vulnerable infants and toddlers receive the support they need to thrive.
Beyond the data from our recent Sixpence report, which shows promising evidence that the Sixpence program can set families up for success, we’re glad to hear from Paola Acosta, the program coordinator of Schuyler’s Sixpence-funded program. Today, she shared some wonderful news from the people who count most: our community members.
Paola said that Sixpence has been particularly helpful during recent times and COVID.
“There’s no doubt that the Sixpence program has been a great resource to our families, especially during the pandemic,” she said.
Paola alluded to one instance when the program supported a young mother.
“There’s a teen mom that’s been in the program since October 2019. Mom has various risk factors that make her a great candidate for the program,” said Paola.
Leading risk factors are:
- Low-income households
- Single parents
- Parents without high school diplomas
- English-language learners
- Teen parents
64% of the 1,038 children served in Sixpence have three or more risk factors.
Although these liabilities can affect a child’s kindergarten readiness and later life success, the good news is, Sixpence can help. By supporting parents and children early on, the program can help to create long-term benefits for the child by laying a foundation during his or her crucial first three years.
“She’s been through a lot in the last year,” said Paola about the young mother. “While coming to the U.S. from Guatemala, she was put in a detention center, where she gave birth to her baby girl. We learned about her and her situation through her aunt while she attended a PIWI (Parents Interacting with Infants) group.”
“We offer PIWI to those families who are waiting to get in as a way to provide some services. You know some is better than done,” she said. “We also open PIWI groups to the community and it helps us recruit families.”
Paola said the program spent several months remaining in touch with the young mother’s aunt, who continued to update them about her niece’s situation. After staying in contact, the young mother moved to Schuyler and the Sixpence team added her to the program!
The young woman, like many parents, wants the best for her child and has goals and dreams. As she was still attending high school, one of her main motivations was to put her child in childcare at the Early Head Start Center, which receives support and partnership from Sixpence.
During her time spent in the program, Paola said the young woman made it clear through her actions and words that Sixpence helped not only with her child’s well-being and care but also in areas that are imperative to her and her daughter’s thriving.
“Through her time in Sixpence, she’s made it clear that [the program] is a great support to her. Sixpence has supported her through filling out the application for Medicaid, connecting her to Community Response, and providing school supplies for this upcoming school year,” said Paola.
Armed with the tools and resources she needed to continue her education and parenting, the program continued to connect the young mom to the essential contacts for her to live her best life.
Paola said in addition to the young mom’s willingness to learn and participate, she developed a close relationship with her home visitor, which has helped the young woman tremendously.
“The ongoing success that we’re experiencing with this particular parent wouldn’t be possible without the strong relationship that was built between the home visitor and the parent after establishing trust and a good sense of communication,” said Paola.
Paola said the young woman continues to pay tribute to Sixpence’s support. In turn, Paola said that the program feels gratitude towards her, too.
“We’re also very grateful for her dedication that she has shown not only to the program but also to her child,” said Paola.
Paola wanted to stress that Sixpence’s supports go beyond addressing risk factors and connecting this young mother to services. The program has helped the woman support her daughter throughout her early years, and provides evidence-based, lasting positive outcomes.
“Research has shown that the development of a child, especially in early years, has a great impact in life,” said Paola.
“In this case, the risk factors that the child is facing can have a tremendous impact on the child’s life outcomes. Through Sixpence, mom has been able to learn how to engage with her child through activities provided by the home visitor, parent-child groups, and attending community events despite all her obstacles. The interaction through activities has helped her bond with her child, learn about her child’s development, safety, and child’s health.”
There have been more benefits, still, for this young mother. Paola names the incentive program as another terrific resource for this parent.
Paola said that through Sixpence, our single teen mom has benefited from the incentive program where she can get necessities for her baby. The incentive program allows parents to earn points. For example, if parents keep all their home visits, take their child to well-baby checks, Women Infants, and Children appointments, and attend family engagement events, families are eligible to earn points. Aside from this young mother’s resolve and willingness to remain in the program, Sixpence recognized that when the going gets tough, the giving get going.
“Due to the high needs for food and other resources during the pandemic, we decided as a site to use some of our Sixpence funds to donate gift cards to our families where they can spend at our local grocery store,” she said.
Paola said that during the pandemic’s struggles, the program has continued to utilize creative ways to assist the community. Whereas the program acknowledges the toll that COVID has taken on their community, they remain determined to help.
“The pandemic has affected everyone by losing employment from several job sites, including Cargill being our biggest employer, to losing lives,” said Paola.
Beyond this young mother’s personal success story, Schuyler Sixpence has gathered concrete data that points to positive outcomes for parents. The program obtained this information from conducting a Keys to Interactive Parenting Scale, (KIPS), which assesses parents’ behavioral quality.
During this assessment, the home visitor observes the parent-child’s interactions throughout different activities and evaluates the parents’ responses according to 12 different success indicators including supporting their child’s emotions, creating reasonable expectations, and setting limits and consequences.
Schuyler was one of the sites that was able to turn in 19 KIPS videos, even during the pandemic, with promising results. Paola said the videos, despite circumstances caused by COVID, achieved a high programmatic score of 4.55.
Paola said this data indicates that families and home visitors are building stronger relationships, promoting learning even when language is often a barrier, and supporting the parents and their child’s confidence when the parents themselves may feel less so.
“However, this hasn’t stopped our program [from] providing resources and help in any way that we can. The work we do as a site is not only reflected on the story we’re writing today but also [regarding] the data projected on the tools we use, such as KIPS,” she said.
And according to Paola, these promising changes are only the beginning.
“We will continue to strive to provide resources to families, such as the one mentioned above, [for] existing families in the program, and [for] any other family that meets Sixpence’s qualifications,” she said.