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Inslee visits Spokane home highlighting early childhood education

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 24, 2017

Gov. Jay Inslee visits with Nola and her brother, Dutch, on Thursday at their home in Spokane. Inslee visited the family to highlight the Parents as Teachers program and has proposed increased funding at the state level. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Gov. Jay Inslee visits with Nola and her brother, Dutch, on Thursday at their home in Spokane. Inslee visited the family to highlight the Parents as Teachers program and has proposed increased funding at the state level. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Katrina DeVries has high expectations for herself as a parent.

But after having her second child, she started to suffer from postpartum depression. And she had two children under the age of 2. That’s when she heard about a program called Parents as Teachers.

Now, twice a month, Shelly Nelson comes to DeVries’ tidy South Hill home and works with her children.

Sometimes Nelson teaches them skills as basic as chewing food properly. Or she helps DeVries, her husband and her children strengthen their family bonds. They set quarterly goals, often as simple as all going to the park together.

“She kind of helped me get back on track,” DeVries said.

DeVries is one of 80 families in the Spokane area who work with the Parents as Teachers program. On Thursday Gov. Jay Inslee visited DeVries’ home and sat at her kitchen table playing with her two children.

“Small little changes at this age have 80- or 90-year benefits,” he said.

The Parents as Teachers program provides low-income families early childhood support. It’s one part of a larger initiative called the Washington State Home Visiting Coalition. The coalition serves 8,200 families throughout Washington. According to the Department of Early Learning there are more than 37,000 eligible families throughout the state.

That’s why the coalition is asking the state for an additional $10.3 million in funding.

According to the Home Visiting Coalition, families with access to the program have a 50 percent lower likelihood of child abuse and neglect.

The home visiting program is a part of the broader federal program called the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which has garnered bipartisan support.

However, it is unclear exactly how federal legislation will impact the program. Currently, state home visiting programs receive more than $68 million every two years from the federal government. A portion of that money is up for re-authorization this year.

Inslee said the argument for programs like these are clear: They save money in the long run, and it’s easier to help children when they are young.

“We’d rather have these kids succeed in school, not as a burglar,” Inslee said.

Rick Purcell, the community director for Children’s Home Society, a member of the coalition, said intervention at a young age is invaluable.

“It’s way more impactful if we can catch them here,” he said.

For DeVries it was a simple consideration. She needed support.

“In eras past, it was a whole family all living under one roof,” she said, adding that young children need attention 24 hours a day.

Correction: Which programs receive federal money in Washington State was incorrect in the original version of this story. The story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Washington State home visiting programs receive $68 million from the federal government every two years.

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