The Family Resource Center Program

Nogales, AZ | Submitted by Debbie Curley

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The Family Resource Center Program helps families with children aged 0-5 in Santa Cruz County to prepare for Kindergarten. The Program is administered by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Santa Cruz County through subcontracts with the local school districts to operate the Nogales, Rio Rico and Patagonia Family Resource Centers. The Centers offer a safe place where families can meet each other, learn about their child’s development and receive referrals for any type of services that can help improve their quality of life.

The Centers offer free classes in two tracks to help teach children through their parents. In the Parent Track, parents learn how their children learn and how to promote their critical thinking skills. In the Development Track, the focus is on the child’s skills and parents participate by scaffolding their learning.
The FRC Program Survey indicates that after attending 40 core classes, more than 86% of clients were meeting all Program goals and objectives.

The FRC Program emphasizes the importance of literacy development for all families. Parents are taught the value of speaking to their children, pausing for their response, and narrating their day to encourage language development. Two development classes have reading logs and children receive small incentives. They are given books in every class series at the Center and taught how to enhance the reading experience through animation and accompanying activities. Early interventions help kids be ready for Kindergarten and thereby improve their chances of reading at benchmark by third grade.

There is a high population in Santa Cruz County living in poverty. Staff uses a strength-based approach with all families that help to create an environment where everyone has expertise to contribute no matter what their economic status is. Staff suggests activities that can be hand made at low cost. The majority of parents and caregivers who take part in the Center are mothers; however, fathers are strongly encouraged to participate. Classes are often scheduled at times when working fathers can still attend.

The Centers serve as the first bridge in the cradle to career continuum. Data generated from the Nogales Unified School District #1 and the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District #35 shows that 51% of children from the FRC Program met standards on the DIBELS Literacy Assessment versus 26% in the general population. District administration say the FRC parents have more realistic expectations of school and are more likely to be involved. Center children do better on pre-K skills inventories as well as standardized tests in Kindergarten.

FRC promote innovation and critical thinking in young children. Critical thinking is said to be more important than IQ in determining a child’s success in school. The Common Core Standards, adopted by many states, are designed to allow children to learn independently. Those with strong critical thinking skills are likely to excel in an environment that encourages experience and exploration. Program staff obtained permission from the Family and Work Institute to base the Keys for Threes class on Dr. Ellen Galinsky’s book Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. Children, and their parents, learn aspects of executive function such as perspective taking, focus and self-control and critical thinking that will help make the school experience more successful. These skills are valuable for problem solving in school, work and life.

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