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Could Virtual Home Visits Help Parents in K-12 Schools?

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School officials in higher grades might want to borrow an idea from early education on how to reach parents at home.

A new pilot program in Los Angeles is having families use tablets through a Web-based conference system to do virtual home visits, wrote Christina Samuels in Education Week's Early Years blogParents as Teachers, a 32-year-old program for ages 0-5, has long done actual visits to families' homes, but it is adding a computer piece to connect to parents in a new way.

"In addition to the regular conferences with parent-educators, families will have a chance to interact online every month with other families participating in the pilot program. Group meetings are a part of the Parents as Teachers model and are traditionally held in schools, libraries, or other community meeting spaces. And the educational toys and books that families would normally get when they meet face-to-face with counselors will be provided in an introductory kit," Samuels wrote.

While home-visiting programs have long been used by agencies to improve families' well-being, the idea got more attention through the Affordable Care Act's Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

The Los Angeles program aims to extend that idea to the computer, which officials expect will especially help families who are reluctant to have someone visit their homes and for those in remote areas. The program is starting small, with 65 families as early as April.

"Different generations of parents will respond differently. But I don't think we should make an assumption that the platform changes the relationship. We need to study if something gets in the way," said Donna Hunt O'Brien, the director of training, curriculum, and program innovations at Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis, in the blog.

What do you think of the idea of virtual home visits? Would it be helpful in the K-12 grades? Let us know.

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

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