Hope Springs Eternal
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Hope Street. Dealing with early-childhood education issues is
one of the center's primary charges, explains Vickie Kropenske,
Hope Street's director. Housed on the grounds of California Hospital
Medical Center - a community hospital operated by Catholic Healthcare
West Southern California - Hope Street falls under the umbrella
of UCLA's interdisciplinary Center for Healthier Children, Families
intervention - the earlier the better - is key, says Neal Halfon,
professor of pediatrics and public health and director of the Center
for Healthier Children, Families and Communities. Research on early
brain development shows that infancy and the early-childhood years
are critical to a child's development.
explosion in brain-development research is really highlighting what's
at stake early in a child's life," says Halfon. "No more than 1
to 2 percent of kids are actually born with some kind of neurologically
based developmental problem, but by second or third grade, we have
between 12 and 18 percent of children going into special education.
So something is happening between birth and when they start school
during which kids are falling off the map." If problems are identified
earlier as they first begin to manifest, he says, they can be addressed
more effectively "because the brain is more plastic when the child
Hope Street, the foundation of this approach is Early Head Start,
a program for children from birth to age 3 that focuses on development
and early intervention to catch and prevent problems that could
adversely affect a child later in life. Early Head Start targets
families primarily through a family-services coordinator, or "home
visitor," who goes to the home for 90 minutes each week to monitor
the child's development, encourage interaction between the parents
and children and help families address broader issues that affect
children's health. The home visits are structured around a specific
lesson plan, developed by the home visitor and parents with support
from the center's multidisciplinary, clinical staff, and tailored
to each family's individualized needs.
become almost a family member," says Araceli Campos, who has been
going to Aguilar's home for almost a year, since Aguilar's youngest,
Jessica, 2, was enrolled. "I come often enough to keep the momentum
up, to support the family, to help them become more self-sufficient.
And I learn from them, too."
has noticed the difference. "Jessica's more aware and open," she
says. "She understands things better. I'm very grateful to see my
daughter develop better from the program. I also learned to help
my children in their education, how to help them progress, how to
be a better parent."
Maria Olea, a woman with three children and a shy smile, the program
has been amazing, especially for her 3-year-old, Ana. When Ana started
Early Head Start last November, she would hardly speak. "We were
concerned she might have a hearing problem, because she wasn't speaking,"
says Luz Cubias, the Olea family's home visitor. "We brought her
books, we'd talk to her a lot, read to her, try to do activities
that would emphasize language. Now she pretty much names everything
and is using more two- or three-word phrases."
lot of the language needs of our children can be environmentally
remedied. Many of our parents believe that once their children get
to school age, that's where the real education starts," explains
social-services coordinator Sherrie Segovia '77, who supervises
the home visitors. "But drawing on the brain research that's come
out, we teach parents that their kids come with the opportunity
to learn from the beginning, and it's a matter of stimulating them
from day one."
has made all the difference for Olea. "I read to them, I talk to
my children now," she says with pride. "I'm doing activities. I
am more involved. My husband and I play with the children, and he
speaks with Ana and talks with her about what she did that day in