Four-year-old Camila loves to dress up and rarely leaves the house without lipstick. Camila’s mother Annette Vea Lopez didn’t always know how to respond to Camila’s self-expression, but since participating in the Casa de los Ninos Parents as Teachers program, she now embraces her daughter’s fashion choices.
“Camila’s been very independent since she was a toddler,” Vea Lopez said. “Adults would always comment on her makeup and how she dressed. She was always very girly. She’s 4 now and still that way, that’s just her personality. We love her just as she is. And we love that Parents as Teachers always encouraged us to let Camila be herself.”
Vea Lopez heard about the Parents as Teachers home visitation program from a friend who suggested that she enroll with then 1-year-old Camila.
The First Things First Pima South Regional Partnership Council funds home visitation to help parents become their child’s first and best teacher. Parents as Teachers gives families personalized, in-home support through a trained parent educator.
The educator offers families information, education and support on parenting, child development and health topics while also assisting with connections to other resources or programs as needed.
“There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but we can always learn and be a little better,” Vea Lopez said. “And it’s helpful to have someone who can teach you those skills.”
When mom was concerned with her daughter’s eyesight, the parent educator referred her to a free vision screening opportunity, where the family learned that Camila needed glasses.
“I was so happy we were able to get answers and get her glasses before she entered kindergarten,” said Vea Lopez. “I didn’t want her to struggle when she got to school.”
The parent educator worked with Vea Lopez and Camila throughout the pandemic, offering in-home support as well as referring the family to play groups and community activities.
“I loved the groups. Camila made friends, and I was able to connect with other parents,” Vea Lopez said.
During home visits, the parent educator introduced the family to activities that support social-emotional development, such as being able to recognize and label emotions. Vea Lopez notices the impact these activities have had on her daughter.
“I see that Camila’s confidence and self-esteem have grown. She will look in her little mirror and go ‘Look how good I look!’” said Vea Lopez.
The family’s parent educator, Vanessa Villegas, has seen Annette grow throughout the program, too.
“We would do activities with the little ones to help them express their feelings, and I saw Annette learning to do that, too,” Villegas said. “She began to open up to me more and talk about when she was feeling anxious or what she needed support with. A lot of the activities are directed at the kids, but they impact the whole family.”
Vea Lopez agreed. “This program gave us so many tools, resources, and information to use with all our children, not just Camila,” she said. “During the visits, they would always ask how I was, how I was feeling. They supported us with everything.”
Camila recently graduated from the program and is ready for kindergarten. Vea Lopez credits Parents as Teachers for helping get her there.