Together We’re Better is a 16-week mobile parenting and early learning program designed to promote nurturing and caring parents focused on the early education of their children. This program will also work to help remove obstacles for families by providing basic needs such as food and diapers and connect them to necessary resources and services.
The mission of Education Services at Catholic Charities Dallas addresses four significant community concerns: 20% of Dallas adults cannot read or write; 50% of five-year-olds are not ready for kindergarten, 60% of 3rd graders are not reading at grade level; and 10% of Dallas county children under five are victims of abuse or neglect. As needs continue to exist, Education Service developed a new program to meet families where they are.
The 16-week journey is filled with many steps to ensure that families who gravely need this program will receive all of its benefits. To qualify, parents must be of low-income with children under the age of five, living in an underserved zip code. The first step is for the family to fill out an intake and needs assessment, giving the team a better understanding of the family’s circumstance. The second step involves a parenting series, followed by the next step, early literacy activities for the children. The fourth step involves screenings and referrals. Step five focuses on family’s material necessities like diapers and food – Education Services will provide those basic needs. The final step is case management for those most at risk. At the end of the 16 weeks, the Together We’re Better team introduces the family to the next high-quality program equipped to work with both the parent and child’s needs, leading them toward continued success.
Along with following this 16-week step-by-step process, four goals were set in place for the Together We’re Better program as a whole: Build stronger families; reduce and prevent child abuse and neglect; build early literacy skills in young children; and provide early screenings and interventions for young children.
Established in Fall 2020, Together We’re Better is similar to Education Services’ long-running Together We Learn, a dual generation program for children under the age of five and their parent. Together We Learn is held at Cardinal Ferrell Community Center while Together We’re Better takes place in various community locations. The new, mobilized program currently has 74 parents and 90 children enrolled across four Dallas communities.
Due to COVID19, the Together We’re Better team has had to pivot what they envisioned the program to look like. Parents are finding community with one another through Facebook groups where they post their children’s educational progress. Parents are expected to join one Parent Zoom class a week as the staff teaches them English and other lessons, although some have attended their virtual class more than one day a week.
Each week, the Together We’re Better team packages and distributes food and diapers for families to pick up. Children’s work packets – filled with paper activities, English lessons, and new books – are also assembled for weekly distribution.
Just like the success of Together We Learn, Together We’re Better will also help close pre-existing educational gaps for children and their parents, providing a path of opportunity for each family member.