New American Voices – Parents AS Teachers

Parents as TeachersTM (PAT) is a national, evidence-based home visitation program that promotes a child’s optimal health and development by supporting and engaging their parents and caregivers from pregnancy until the child turns three years old.

My name is Hira Chhetri, and I arrived in Atlanta in 2008 as a refugee from Bhutan. In 2009, I began working at Refugee Family Services, which merged with another organization in 2014 to form New American Pathways (New AP). Today, I serve as the Parents as Teachers™ (PAT) Senior Coordinator at New AP.

The PAT program at New AP provides information, support, and encouragement to new Americans so that children can develop optimally during the crucial early years of life.  We want to create a community in which all children are safe, nurtured, and empowered to reach their full potential.

Our program has five experienced educators who work with families until their children turn 5 years old. All educators are trained by PAT National and are certified to use the Foundational and Model Implementation curriculum to plan home visits with age-appropriate activities, where they also make use of research handouts on child development topics. Every home visit is designed to have the caregiver and child interact during an activity that builds the caregiver/child relationship.

The program is particularly beneficial for families who are new to the United States. They receive home visits from a certified educator who delivers the curriculum in their native language. All the educators are bilingual and form connections that build trust with the families. They support parents in building their own community in Georgia, navigating the healthcare system, and finding resources to support their family.

The program is evidence-based, so the curriculum is designed to provide resources for child development in different areas such as language, cognitive, social-emotional,
and motor-development skills. Age-appropriate activities help build the parent/child relationship and empower the parent to interact more deeply as the child learns. Each family receives a customized curriculum to meet their unique needs, helping parents build life-long skills alongside their children. As a result, many parents leave the program feeling more confident, secure, and connected while the children gain a deeper connection to their caregivers and learn invaluable skills that help them for the rest of their lives.

Parent Educator Nadia says, “My only motivation is educating families and my community about the importance of reading to their children at home since they’re newborns and providing a window of opportunity to them.”

The best part of my job is supporting mothers and children and believing in them. They are a crucial piece of the community, but they’re often unseen or unheard. The Parents as Teachers program is the only model that helps mothers learn about early childhood development through play-by-play methods. My passion is supporting learning through interaction in the home setting and sharing impactful research in child development. It is amazing to see the younger generation from my community become college graduates. Believing in the power of education can change the cycle of poverty.