Monday, May 7, 2012

Plant a Seed and Grow the Future

Our second annual spring campaign is focused on the great work of YWCA’s Y’s Care Children’s Program, and on how innovative curriculum like Seeds of Empathy impacts children and families by inspiring change in their personal and social lives.
We first mentioned Seeds of Empathy in our November Newsletter, providing an overview and history of the curriculum and insight on how Y’s Care came to be the 2nd in the nation to adopt this cutting-edge style of learning. For a brief review, the program was developed by Mary Gordon and had its start in Canada, and now has programs all over the world both for preschoolers and school age children. In a nutshell, the Seeds of Empathy Program goals are:

  • To foster the development of empathy and emotional literacy
  • To build social and emotional understanding
  • To reduce aggression and increase pro-social behavior
  • To develop positive attitudes toward and competencies in early literacy

We’re nearing the end of the 10 visit cycle and the kids are really enjoying watching baby Jocelyn grow and develop. She and mom visit the classroom every three weeks during a family visit. The teacher spreads out the big lavender blanket, the students sing a hello song and get down to the business of watching this amazing baby grow!

To prepare for each visit, teachers Laura and Leann each read two books from the current theme and the children complete projects related to the books. The ten themes, including feeling angry, feeling scared and getting bigger resonate with 3-5 year olds and the curriculum relates to the children’s social emotional development as well as to their early literacy learning.

A study of Gordon’s longer-running and comparable program aimed at K-8th grades, Roots of Empathy (ROE) shows the following key findings:

  • Decrease in aggression: While children in the ROE program showed decreases in aggression from pre-test to post-test, comparison children increased in aggression.
  • Creates more caring children: ROE students showed significantly better social and emotional competence than comparison children.
  • Increase in knowledge of parenting: Students in ROE programs had significantly more knowledge about how to help a baby and were more confident in their ability to be a parent.
  • Perceptions of a caring classroom environment: Students in ROE classes felt more supported by their classmates and teacher and felt more autonomous than children in the comparison groups.
  • Lasting results: Researchers found that the ROE group had reduced aggression and improved pro-social behavior immediately after completing the program and those outcomes were maintained or further enhanced over the three years after the program ended.

Seeds of Empathy was introduced in 2005 and while formal results of studies have not yet been produced, we feel the success of ROE is an indicator of the changes Seeds of Empathy is making right now in the lives of preschoolers in the Y’s Care Program.

Y’s Care doesn’t only help create change in the lives of these wonderful children, but also provides solace, confidence and inspiration to parents involved with the program. Rachel Collins is one such parent, who first entered YWCA with her two youngest children in 2010.

When Rachel left her abusive husband, she knew she needed to secure employment and housing immediately to support herself and her five children. Her biggest barrier was finding affordable day care that would permit her time to work. Rachel went looking for day care, but found so much more.

“The program saved my life; it gave me hope and faith. I now had affordable childcare and I was going to be able to work in order to provide a safe home and a good life for my children. I could finally be free and begin to heal, we were going to be alright and my children and myself were going to be something and not statistics. This was one of the best days of my life.”

Rachel is able to work at Second Step Housing, a local non-profit that helps women in troubled circumstances find affordable housing, with the comfort of knowing her children are thriving at Y’s Care. She also volunteers at YWCA Clark County, HeadStart and Second Step, and is an active advocate for legislation that supports this community.

It is this “pay it forward” type of attitude that consistently emerges from YWCA program participants whether they be 3, or 33 years old. We believe this is due to the over 70 employees and hundreds of volunteers and donors who believe in and support the innovative and inspiring programs that serve the underprivileged members of our great community.

However, programs like Y’s Care would not be possible without the supporters like you. During our spring campaign, we ask you to “grow the future” of our children and of our community by making a donation to YWCA Clark County. Donations can be made online, in person, or by mail to YWCA Clark County, 3609 Main St., Vancouver, WA 98660. Many employers will match your donation, so be sure to check with your HR representative if you think this will be an option for you.

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