"Parents as Teachers, Heroes At Home" offers developmental advice through home visits

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - For a brief moment, Callie Smith remained on all fours, sizing up her target like some kind of potential prized catch.

Then without warning, she lunged forward - rising up onto her knees and wrapping her arms securely around her victim, as if unwilling to let him go until she gave him the one thing he deserved.

Were she a Soldier like her now deployed father, Sgt. Calvin Smith, 3rd Squadron, 4th Calvary Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, young Callie's grappling move would have received a resounding "Hooah!" from her audience. But, for the 10-month-old bundle of unbridled energy, this moment was no example of playing to the crowd. Her motive, in fact, was innocent: to plant a drool-excessive, open-mouthed kiss on the other toddler's head.

More importantly, Callie's rapid and decisive movement demonstrated that her gross motor skills were developing quite nicely - thanks in large part to a new program focusing on prenatal and newborn to age 3 child development that has been attracting military families from all over.

The free Child, Youth and School Services (CYS2) program, known as "Parents As Teachers, Heroes At Home," has been operating since April 1 and is already assisting more than 25 families offering child development advice through monthly home visits by parent educators, as well as once-a-month, get-togethers at the Kalakaua Community Center, Schofield Barracks.

The plan, according to parent educators LaToya Cardwell and Polly Strona, is to grow the program by an additional 50 families before year's end.

"The need is greater at high-deployment bases, like Schofield Barracks," explained Cardwell of the program. "When one spouse is out, the other spouse is left at home, and a lot of them are young Soldiers. We can help them by giving them extra support in educating their children."

Although still in its infancy in the islands, Parents As Teachers, Heroes At Home is fast becoming a hit among its participants.

"It's refreshing to have this program on base for military families," said Callie's mother, Michele Smith. "To know there is a service here where you can get a home visit, and get tips and pointers on how to help your child develop in terms of their fine-motor and gross-motor skills, is just excellent."

For Sgt. Paul Murphy, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, and his wife, Alicia, the program's extensive reach beyond post confines has been most beneficial. Residents of Kapolei, the Murphys have been accepting personal visits at their home from Strona, who shares strategies through handouts that support the intellectual and social-emotional development of their children: Blake, 2, and Aidan, 1.

"I've found it easier when you have a handout telling you how to teach your child," Alicia Murphy said. "Like with disciplining our 2-year-old, instead of giving him timeouts, Polly will give us alternate ways of handling him."

In Stacey Reisinger's case, the program is as familiar and comfortable to her as an old Army blanket. While stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., she and husband Maj. Aaron Reisinger, 130th Engineer Brigade, first learned of the Parents As Teachers program, and immediately enrolled their prematurely born twin daughters, Avery and Emma Vi, in it.

Then the couple relocated to Hawaii last fall, leaving them uncertain of where to turn for assistance with their 2-year-old daughters, both of whom were experiencing delays in speech. Fortunately, Stacey Reisinger walked into CYS2 and discovered an all-too-familiar program was about to be launched here.

"I wound up being the second person to sign up for the program," she recalled.

Since then, Cardwell has paid two visits to the family's home. "It's a convenient service," Reisinger added, "and the girls have really taken a liking to LaToya."

For more information or to sign up for the "Parents As Teachers, Heroes At Home" program, call the CYS2 central registration office at 808-655-4090.