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Program helps child development

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Whiteman was recently chosen as the only Air Force base to implement the Parents as Teachers-Heroes at Home program as part of a Department of Defense pilot program.

The DoD selected Whiteman, along with 11 other installations, based on deployment cycles and the number of young families living at each location.

PAT, an early childhood parent education and family support program first implemented in Missouri in 1981, is now available in all 50 states.

The Knob Noster R-VIII School District began offering the program to the Whiteman community in February and the base's program is managed by the 509th Services Squadron's Family Member Programs Flight.

The program's foundation is based on the belief that parents are their children's first and most influential teachers, and that the early years of a child's life are critical for optimal development and provide the foundation for success in school and in life.

"I absolutely love this program", said Zela Baclayon, wife of Staff Sgt. Kaola Baclayon, 509th Maintenance Squadron. "I hand out pamphlets and really encourage the program to all of my friends that either have children or are pregnant."

The couple's daughter, Azucena, enrolled in the program from the beginning and the family receives a visit once a month from a parent educator. During these personal visits, the parent educator shares age-appropriate child development and parenting information, helps parents learn to observe their children and address any parenting concerns.

In addition, parents can bring their children to a weekly playgroup which allows parents the opportunity to share information with each other and a parent educator. Parents also observe their children playing with other children and practice parenting skills.

"I am usually away from home 12-14 hours a day," Sergeant Baclayon said. "It's good to know that when I come home Azucena can tell me if she is thirsty or wants to play -- rather than her screaming and (me) not knowing what she needs."

PAT - Heroes at Home is available to all military families with children ages 3 and under.

For more information and to enroll, call 687-6010 or 687-6011.