Request for Funding for the Leake & Watts Parent-Child Home Program Expansion to provide early childhood education & family support to Bronx homeless & housing-insecure families

Grant proposal, 2016 (Hey, my grant writing has raised more than $2.5 million, so...)

*This grant application secured all funding for an addition of 20 homeless and housing-insecure families to be supported by this early childhood program for low-income families. All mention of the funder and request amount have been removed.

 

Leake & Watts is a leading nonprofit organization providing many of the most vulnerable children, adults and families in the New York City area with the resources and skills needed to rise above adversity and positively direct their lives. Gold Winner of the 2014 New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards, Leake & Watts provides innovative and results-driven programs in education from early childhood to high school, family support and stabilization, intellectual/developmental disabilities services, foster care, and juvenile justice services. Today, our work is a positive force in the lives of more than 11,000 individuals annually through 43 programs at 27 sites in the New York City area as we realize our mission to provide support today so children, adults and families can achieve success tomorrow.

 

Since 2011, Leake & Watts has supported families throughout the Bronx through our Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP), a nationally recognized evidence-informed, two-year home-visiting program for low-income families with children ages 16 to 48 months. The program brings Home Visitors to meet with families twice weekly to promote positive parenting skills and parent-child interactions, while focusing on the development of pre-literacy skills and school readiness. Recognizing the invaluable role of parents as a child’s first educators, Home Visitors bring free books and educational toys to families supported and model reading, conversation, and play to equip parents to support their child’s development. In 2015, Leake & Watts worked closely with the national office to adapt this model to Family Child Care settings. Today, we serve our maximum capacity of 82 individual children, as well as 10 Family Child Cares, providing comparable services to child care providers who serve as regular caregivers to between 4 and 12 children each. Overall, our Parent-Child Home program is helping 132 children in the Bronx to close the “achievement gap” in education that is experienced by all too many low-income children in NYC. Thanks to this program, children enrolled in the Leake & Watts Parent-Child Home Program demonstrate average annual gains of 37% in school readiness. For our last cycle of children completing the two-year program, this meant an 83% increase in school readiness and social and emotional health in that timeframe.

 

Homelessness and housing insecurity are among the many challenges facing low-income families in the Bronx, one of the highest needs communities in the nation. Overall, 46% of the Bronx is enrolled in Medicaid, 30% of families live in poverty, and the borough has the highest rate of homeless families in New York City, twice the citywide average. In line with the goals of your organization, Leake & Watts has always been dedicated to supporting our community’s historically marginalized citizens, especially in the Bronx where we have a significant presence. Our approach to our work in PCHP is no different. As a result, we have geared our program to some of the highest-needs families in the Bronx across many neighborhoods in all six school districts. Specifically, our program targets parents who themselves lack sufficient literacy skills, families who speak little or no English, families in crisis and at risk of foster-care placement, and other families living in extreme poverty. Of the 82 individual families currently supported by the Leake & Watts PCHP, we support 12 teen parents and 47 single parents. The annual household income for 59% of those we support is lower than $10,000 and lower than $20,000 for 91%. Of the parents and caregivers we support, 54% are unemployed, while another 20% are only employed part-time, with 38% of adults in the program having no high-school diploma or GED. Representing the racial and cultural diversity of the Bronx, 67% of those we support are Hispanic / Latino, while 20% are Black / African American. With the high percentage of immigrants and non-native speakers of English, 35% of those we support have very limited or no spoken and written English skills, while 11% lack literacy in any language. Most notably, of the 82 individual children enrolled this year, 10% are living in shelters and an additional 10% are “doubled up.” Despite significant barriers, these homeless and housing-insecure children demonstrated a two-year increase in school readiness and social, emotional development of 121%. Recognizing the great and growing needs of families faced with homelessness and housing insecurity in the Bronx combined with our ability to successfully address them, Leake & Watts respectfully requests $XXX,000 in funding from to expand the capacity of our Parent-Child Home Program to add resources and personnel necessary to support 20 additional families in Bronx-based homeless shelters.

 

The correlation between limitations in literacy, education, and economic opportunity is highly apparent among those we support, which makes ever more clear the necessity for our work addressing one of the key educational challenges facing this population and their children – the proven “achievement gap” between lowincome students and their middle- and upper-income peers. Educational deficiencies that start early in life present lifelong disparities in educational outcomes, professional opportunity, and economic stability and prosperity. As the foundation is aware, these challenges are compounded by homelessness and housing insecurity. Since its founding in 1965, the PCHP model has demonstrated its impact on the educational success of low-income children and its contribution to closing the achievement gap nationwide. Low-income children who completed the two-year PCHP program are more ready to enter Kindergarten, entering school 10 months ahead of their chronological age; score more than double than the average on social-emotional skills assessments; and are 50% less likely to require special education services by third grade, when PCHP graduates outperform state averages on math assessments. All these early indicators of success continue throughout education, meaning PCHP graduates are 30% more likely to graduate high school than low-income students who had no PCHP. PCHP provides a solid foundation upon which children, despite their modest backgrounds, can go on to thrive in school and in their professional lives.

 

The Parent-Child Home Program significantly differs from other literacy programs in that it not only focuses on developing children’s literacy skills but takes an optimally strategic, holistic approach, working with the entire family to ensure the highest-impact intervention possible. To help parents incorporate education into their family’s daily routine, Home Visitors go to each home to work with both parent and child, instead of providing instruction in an institutional setting, bringing free books and toys to the home twice a week. Rather than directly teaching, Home Visitors model behaviors for parents that enhance children’s development utilizing a non-directive, non-didactic approach and building meaningful relationships with families. They help to empower each parent, develop their pride in their ability to impact their child’s education, and prepare them to support their children for many years on the path to school success. By creating a supportive learning environment for the child, the Home Visitor gives parents the tools, skills, and encouragement to understand that they are their child’ most important teacher and promote academic success. This multi-focus on nurturing each child’s development, fostering each parent’s ability to support their child’s ongoing progress and nurturing healthy family relationships promotes longterm success for children beyond the duration of the program.

 

Our experience supporting families in the Bronx has shown us that while parents may not have the knowledge or tools to promote their children’s learning on their own, many have a strong desire to promote their children’s school readiness and are eager for the support of a program like PCHP. Yoselin, once a teen mother in our program, explained that, “Even though I’ve got my GED, I really regret not finishing high school on time. It’s important to me that my son Jayden has a better life. I want him to go farther, to finish college and get a good job.” Inspired by her experience working with Home Visitors, Yoselin has since gone on to become a Home Visitor herself, passing along the lessons and skills she learned to more families. “I loved that the Visitor helped both of us. I learned to play with Jayden in a smart way, so I could keep helping him when the program is finished. Now I know how to ask him questions that make him think, and I can be part of his learning. I’m so proud of what we both have learned and am so happy to be sharing this with more families.”

 

With home visits twice weekly, PCHP provides stability in the lives of the families we support for the two years of this program that they otherwise would not have – including families that are living in homeless shelters, are “doubled up,” and who are at risk of homelessness. Homeless shelters have limited resources to meet all the needs of homeless families, of which there are many. In situations where basic social services, food and health care require considerable efforts, the educational needs of children and the need to develop pre-literacy skills at an early age often go unmet. There are geographic barriers to children in homeless shelters with regular housing changes to enrolling in center-based early childhood programs, such as Early Head Start and Head Start. For young children in dire situations, the efforts to provide temporary stability often trump supports that would create the foundations upon which children will be able to overcome adversity, succeed in school, and move onto economically stable, independent lives. By meeting children and parents in their homes, we ensure children are ready for Kindergarten, ready to learn, and ready to start a path toward a successful life. Beyond school readiness, PCHP and the impact on family bonds foster overall well-being, as well as social and emotional development of young children that will influence their entire lives. It is at such a young age that we have the opportunity to make such an impact.

 

As a program with flexibility in where it is provided in the community, we have provided all these supports to families in homeless shelters and unstable living situations, and through the proposed expansion, we will provide the same vital foundations to more families in similar circumstances. Gaining the confidence of and maintaining regular contact with families who are fragile and often transient can prove difficult, both logistically and consistently. Families move between shelters, between temporary residences, find themselves without lodging, rely on pay-as-you-go and changing cell phones, and are not guaranteed access to computers. Through decades of experience working in these communities, Leake & Watts has developed many connections and a strong understanding of how best to support these families. This learning curve has also applied to our PCHP services. We have successfully worked with the national site to develop special accommodations for families at risk of not meeting the minimum number of meetings to complete the program and have successfully retained families as a result. In our first year, working with many Preventive Services families, we saw a mere 83% retention rate, as our connections with a number of families slipped away. Five years later, we are seeing a retention rate of more than 93%. The PCHP national site has worked for the last decade reaching out to homeless families through its Mobile Outreach (MOPCHP) model as well. Through this model, Home Visitors and Coordinators establish ties with families living in shelters and follow them throughout the two years of the program, even as families experience frequent changes in location and move in and out of the system. Nationally, 85% of homeless families who initiate the two-year program complete it. We will combine our own expertise and that of the MOPCHP model to ensure families in the proposed expansion are fully supported.

 

Key to our engagement of families are our flexibility and our commitment to hiring from within the communities we support, including parents who themselves received support through PCHP, meaning those providing this service are part of and understand the community, bringing an ability to relate, communicate, and gain the confidence of families who face isolation, linguistic barriers, and other challenges. From the first interaction, our Coordinators and Home Visitors build strong relationships with each family, demonstrate our commitment to their well-being, and work with them to make sure they complete the two years, despite any setbacks or challenges they may face. Instability and transience are issues we are accustomed to working around, as we currently support two families that started the PCHP program while residing in the Bronx and who now have found residence in upper Manhattan, one family having been relocated to a new shelter. Dedicated to ensuring children have the opportunity to reap the full benefits of PCHP, we have followed families that have been relocated by the Department of Homelessness as far as the outer reaches of Queens to make sure they complete the program.

 

This sort of engagement is made possible by a strong connection with families and within the community at large. Through not only PCHP but all Leake & Watts programs, we have hundreds of connections with peer agencies, supplemental service providers, community organizations, and referral providers which can continue to support families long past the two years of our PCHP program. Among these many connections of both Leake & Watts and specifically our PCHP staff are the homeless shelters at which we provide in-home family and child supports, as well as organizations that are specifically dedicated to supportive housing and meeting the needs of the borough’s notable homeless population and individuals at risk of homelessness. In the last two years, our PCHP has served families at eight homeless shelters and has also supported multiple families in Section 8 and NYCHA housing throughout the Bronx. We also have many community referral sources in the Mott Haven neighborhood in school district 7, where PCHP staff report that many of the families supported are “doubled up” in the homes of friends and relatives. We have formed closed relationships with organizations whose work complements and creates natural referrals to PCHP and through which the families supported can access resources needed. A key example is the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). The NFP provides in-home support to first-time mothers who qualify for Medicaid from pregnancy through age 2. Highly represented among those supported by NFP are teen and single mothers and women who are homeless or face housing insecurity. As the children supported through this program reach the age of 2, PCHP is a natural continuation supporting both the children and parents to ensure healthy early childhood development and school readiness. As a multi-faceted organization, other Leake & Watts programs often serve as an internal referral source for families that could benefit from PCHP. Such Leake & Watts services geared toward early-childhood development and family stability include the Soundview Family Resource Center, Early Head Start, and Preventive Services. All these connections will support the overall well-being of all the families supported through PCHP.

 

To further engage parents in the community at large and to create connections between parents who share similar struggles and seek the same goals of helping their children overcome adversity to thrive, the Leake & Watts PCHP organizes quarterly community events. Community events are an opportunity for families to come together, as well as to interact with other members of the community, representatives of community organizations and resources, and volunteers. For low-income, homeless, and housing insecure families, isolation can be a serious problem that creates an environment where abuse and/or neglect can occur and pose serious detriment to the overall development of children. By engaging in the community and forming numerous connections, families are more likely to thrive and have increased access to resources of all sorts. Of particular interest to your mission, these community events are one of many opportunities for individual and corporate volunteers to join and assist. Of note, Leake & Watts engages more than 500 volunteers annually, including many from corporations that join us for a day of service at one of our programs like PCHP.

 

We perform multiple formal evaluations of our Parent-Child Home Program, following national guidelines and our own rigorous protocols for tracking outcomes agency-wide, in order to determine the effectiveness of our services, inform our support, and share our progress with funding partners. We administer the Child’s Behavior Traits (CBT) Evaluation to determine school-readiness and early social and emotional development of children supported. We also administer the Parent & Child Together (PACT) Evaluation to both children and parents/caregivers enrolled in PCHP to determine positive parenting skills, knowledge of child development, and the bond between parent and child. This evaluation assesses parenting practices and their influences on the social, emotional and intellectual development of children, while simultaneously gauging the success of efforts to prevent child abuse and/or neglect. Similar outcomes are also assessed through the Protective Factors Instrument (PFI), which determines the presence of five factors (family functioning and parental resiliency, social connections, concrete supports, knowledge of parenting and child development, nurturing and attachment) key to safe, stable families in which children can flourish. With all these assessments, we have established set criteria, based on our past performance and standards set by the national PCHP site, to determine the success of this work. We strive to have at least 75% of children supported increase both their school readiness and their social and emotional development by at least 25%, as determined by the CBT. We also aim to have at least 85% of parents/caregivers improve their knowledge of child development and positive parenting skills by at least one full point on the PACT’s four-point scale. We also aim to see at least 75% of parents improve their use of positive parenting techniques by 25% or more in PACT results. We began use of the Protective Factors Instrument (PFI) as an assessment tool in December 2015 and are awaiting a sufficient sample of pre- and post-tests to determine appropriate criteria. We also assemble demographic reports to determine the impact we are having on the communities supported throughout the Bronx and constantly review efforts to create and maintain connections within the community. We strive to maintain an 85% completion rate of the program among families and this year have achieved retention at 93%, inclusive of our families living in shelters, with teen mothers, and those enrolled in Preventive Services.

 

Most importantly, our outcomes are meeting and exceeding our goals across all the various populations we support in PCHP. In our previous work with homeless and housing-insecure families, we have seen school readiness increase at a rate comparable to our overall outcomes. The average outcomes of 2015 graduates of the two-year program on the CBT scale saw an increase from 1.8 to 2.5 in year 1 and 2.4 to 3.3 in year 2 (on a 4 point scale). In two years, that’s an 83% increase in school readiness and social and emotional developmental health in two years. For homeless and “doubled up” children in this same period, the average outcomes increased from 1.4 to 2.3 in year 1 and 2.1 to 3.1 in year 2. While initial pre-tests were lower for this group, post-tests had come closer to their housing-secure peers, as overall results saw a drastic increase of 121% over this two-year period of key development. We expect similar results if granted the opportunity to support even more homeless children.

 

The Leake & Watts Parent-Child Home Program is well-acquainted with the challenges of poverty, lack of resources, and housing uncertainty that low-income families in the Bronx face. With your funding, we look to grow on our already existing experience and expertise to expand our support ensuring school readiness, positive early development, and improved family stability for homeless families. As outlined in the attached Work Plan, this expansion builds upon a pre-existing program, systems of support and relationships with a number of homeless shelters and many community organizations. This expansion would include the addition of personnel and resources to allow for a greater capacity for children supported from 80 to 100, while we continue our work with Family Child Care programs in the Bronx. With this increased capacity, we plan to formalize pre-existing relationships with Bronx-based homeless shelters and build others as well. Leading up to the beginning of the 2016-2017 PCHP cycle, beginning October 15, we will identify families in these shelters who qualify for the PCHP program and initiate the process of enrolling and engaging parents, caregivers and their children and hire two additional Home Visitors. Given the wide geographic scope of our PCHP supports throughout the Bronx, these two Home Visitors will not be solely intended to support the additional homeless families. Rather, homeless shelter-based families will be added to the caseload of all 8 Home Visitors employed by Leake & Watts, with assigned families based on geographic proximity. The additional Home Visitors will receive PCHP training leading up to the October 15 cycle start, and to best support these high-needs families, all Leake & Watts PCHP Home Visitors will receive supplemental training on how best to work with homeless and housing-insecure families.

 

Once in the program, we will commit to the sort of engagement we have with all families supported through PCHP and accommodate schedules and changes of residence or situation. Our Home Visitors and leadership will work with shelters, families and peer service providers to ensure that the family’s needs are being met and children are being adequately supported in their intellectual, social, and emotional development and school readiness. We will work with families to ensure that the minimum required number of home visits, 36, are completed, while we will strive to maximize engagement and meet the target number of home visits, 46. Following past test results, we anticipate comparable results, meaning more children – including children whose homelessness and housing insecurity place them in particularly vulnerable situations – are adequately prepared to start school with the literacy skills, social and emotional well-being, and overall intellectual development to go onto succeed in school and in life, despite the many challenges presented to them.

 

The proposed expansion of the Leake & Watts PCHP program to support a greater number of homeless children in Bronx neighborhoods where homelessness and housing insecurity pose challenges for a troubling number children, builds upon a pre-existing service and network that is already well acquainted with all the challenges that intersect within this proposal. As such, the financial efficiency is greater than a program that must start from scratch. This is a vital investment in children early in life that will see considerable financial long-term benefits for the children supported, their families and taxpayers. Children who complete the two-year program are not only 30% more likely to complete high school than their socio-economic peers; receiving this vital support early in life prepares them for an educational and professional trajectory that could amount to greater lifetime earnings of between $600,000 and $1 million. Children who complete PCHP are 50% less likely to require costly special education services by third grade. By giving these children from extremely modest backgrounds a more solid footing early in life, we are diminishing the reliance on taxpayer funds throughout their education and the prospects for multi-generational poverty, promoting future economic independence.

 

Additionally, funding from your organization has the promise to have a greater impact on our efforts to support these high-needs families. In support of our PCHP, Leake & Watts participates in a competitively won public-private (65%-35%) partnership with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Beyond the proposed grant cycle for Fiscal Year 2017, a second year of grant support would provide the necessary resources to ensure the successful completion of an entire cohort of homeless children of this two-year program. Moving forward, we believe we would be able to demonstrate the success of this model of early educational intervention for homeless families with young children and attract new funders to continue and grow our efforts to support the educational needs of this demographic. This is well in line with our recent growth both as an institution and for PCHP. In the last six years, Leake & Watts has doubled in scope, both in terms of budget and persons supported. Our influence in the community through our many programs has grown both through increased resources and capacities within programs and the steady expansion of services. We have seen comparable increases in the capacity to support families with the PCHP model and anticipated continued growth and greater impact. By supporting the expansion of the Leake & Watts Parent-Child Home Program to include an additional 20 slots specifically dedicated to homeless shelter-based children, you have the opportunity to support some of the most vulnerable children and families in the highest-needs neighborhoods in the Bronx. At Leake & Watts, we support individuals and families in communities where endemic poverty and a lack of resources pose barriers to a vast majority of people. As a result, the complex needs of those we support can result in an environment where unaddressed needs worsen and become cyclical afflictions that transcend generations. All our work centers upon ensuring that children and families living in poverty and facing significant challenges have the support needed to rise above adversity and thrive. The proposed expansion will provide such supports to families with extremely limited resources to ensure proper intellectual, social, and emotional development of children and promote overall family well-being and stability. We hope you will join us in providing the support to these families and children today so that, through a solid educational footing and the earliest building blocks for future educational, economic and life prosperity, these children will not be faced with these same challenges tomorrow.

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