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Home visiting program in RPS 205 paves way for first school day

Carolina Rodriguez is a prevention initiative specialist in RPS 205.

Carolina Rodriguez is a prevention initiative specialist in RPS 205.

Carolina Rodriguez prepares children for preschool long before they enter a school building.

Today is the first day for Rockford Public Schools preschool at Dennis, Fairview, Nashold and Summerdale early childhood centers.  But it’s like any other day for Rodriguez, who makes home visits year-round as part of the Prevention Initiative program of RPS 205. The goal of the program is to promote school readiness. It begins with building awareness for pregnant mothers, continues after birth and lasts through the child’s third year.

Rodriguez’ teaching degree is in elementary and middle school bilingual education. But it was after building a successful home care day business that she realized she loved working with very young children.  She came to work for the district four years ago.

Practices in the Prevention Initiative program are research-based and data-driven, like all of those in RPS 205’s Early Childhood. “The beautiful thing about this position is that we receive a lot of training. More than I could ever imagine,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has learned she can help most families just by teaching them what is typical behavior for each stage of development.

She remembers a mother who was struggling with anxiety about her nearly 3-year-old’s apparent inability to be gentle with a newborn sister. Rodriguez reminded the mother the older child didn’t have the maturity or the word skills to understand the baby was fragile. She showed the mother how to model a “soft touch” with Q-tips and cotton balls.  That’s all the mother needed. “She’s a good mom,” Rodriguez said. “She’s bought into the program.”

Prevention Initiative has 11 home visitors like Rodriguez. They helped 251 children and made 2,559 home visits in fiscal year 2017. Although Rodriguez isn’t at preschool with her families on the first day, the impact of her work and that of other home visitors looms large. (Listen to her and learn more about the program in this 2-minute video.)

“We are laying the foundation for that future student,” she said.

Mary Kaull is strategic communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. Click here to subscribe to this blog. Also, please like RPS 205 on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks Mary. This sounds like an excellent program in response to enormous need. We are becoming financially involved with a new United Way program at Ellis that is moving toward bringing mentors to all kindergarteners and their parents at Ellis. You might want to talk to Linda Sandquist at the United Way about this sometime.

    Hope we can get together sometime.

    ColleenG65

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