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Supporting Parents as Teachers

​Sandra Rodriguez began her tenure at Jurupa Unified School District in 1998. Her most rewarding position was acting as an Outreach Worker for Pedley Elementary and Van Buren Elementary, where she provided enrichment classes for parents so children could achieve school success.

Then the position lost funding. Though Sandra stayed with the district and held positions at other sites, she missed serving her community as she did before.

Thankfully, the formation of the Parent Involvement and Community Outreach Department gave Sandra the opportunity to return to the work she loves. “When PICO opened, I was overjoyed," said Sandra of the JUSD department dedicated to serving children and their families. Beginning as an Administrative Secretary, Sandra worked her way to Liaison Specialist and is currently the department's Parent Engagement Coordinator.

For Sandra, no day at PICO is like any other, but she always makes time to check-in with the staff she supervises. One program she oversees, Parents as Teachers, requires a team of “home visitors" who meet with families in-person or through Zoom meetings. Sandra holds one-on-one meetings with her home visitors, during which she receives updates about their current cases. She answers their questions and discusses resources they may need to succeed in their work. Her team members know the families they work with best, so Sandra believes her most important role is to provide feedback and support as well as promote an environment of collaboration.

Parents as Teachers is a home program for families with children 0-2 years old. Funded by CalWORKS, the PAT vision is that all children learn, grow, and develop to reach their full potential. The program asserts that parents and caregivers are a child's earliest and best teachers.

Home visits typically occur twice a month, though Sandra encourages additional visits if a family requires more support. The first visit is all about building a relationship between the PICO staff member assigned to the case and the participating family. The home visitor responds to the family's questions or concerns and introduces the main components of the program.

Sandra visits a mother for the Parents as Teachers program A home visitor with a baby and mom
The PAT program has three main components: Parent-Child Interaction involves working with parents to introduce developmental activities to their children. 
Development-Centered Parenting means increasing parents' knowledge of child development. Family Wellbeing is helping families access resources and address barriers.

Just recently, Sandra helped a mother struggling to immunize her two youngest children. Neither child had birth certificates and their mother lacked the funds and access to transportation to apply for them. Sandra brought her laptop to the home visit so she and Mom could apply together, with CalWORKS providing financial support. Now the mother is one step closer to getting her children the healthcare they need.

Sandra is also in the process of securing a dryer for a family of twelve who cannot afford to replace their broken unit. She went to Lowe's herself for quotes on new machines and was recently approved to make a purchase.

In Jurupa Valley, eight home visitors including Sandra currently work with 77 families and 85 children, but the program's reach extends beyond city boundaries to include other parts of Riverside County. PAT has vastly grown since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, having received over 350 referrals in May 2020 alone. This was a challenge for Sandra and her team, as each referral requires a 72-hour turnaround to reach out to the family. Introducing Zoom meetings to the program also came with its own difficulties, as some families did not have email addresses and tech had to be built from the ground up. However, Sandra trusts that these challenges have not prevented her team from building relationships with the families they serve.

“It makes all the difference when we can have our parents work with their children," said Sandra. “To me, parent involvement is just powerful."

Apart from Director Jose Campos, Sandra Rodriguez is the longest tenured employee for PICO. Her contributions have shaped the department into the powerful force it is today.