BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health, Bureau of Family Health, in collaboration with the Southeast Louisiana Area Health Education Center, announces the recent implementation of the Parents as Teachers (PAT) home-visiting program in select areas of northern Louisiana. The voluntary and evidence-based program is currently available in the following parishes: Caddo, Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Red River, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Morehouse, West Carroll, East Carroll, Madison and Tensas.

The Bureau of Family Health's PAT program matches parents with trained professionals who provide support to families in their home from the start of a mother's pregnancy until the child enters kindergarten.  PAT's core values center on the belief that the early years of a child's life are crucial for optimal development and provide the foundation for success in school and life. Babies begin learning from birth and need parents and other significant adults to guide them through these formative years.

"DHH is very excited to start rolling out our PAT program.  Research shows that children who participate in the program achieve higher kindergarten evaluations, require fewer remedial education placements and have higher math and reading readiness going into first grade," said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert.  "This program is an opportunity to give parents the tools they need to raise healthy, smart and happy children.  I encourage all parents that are eligible for PAT to enroll."

Through the PAT program, Parent Educators who have backgrounds in nursing, health services, child and family studies, psychology, social work and education receive training to become PAT model-certified and receive ongoing professional development and support to ensure families continue to receive quality home visiting services.

During home visits, Parent Educators follow PAT's evidence-based curriculum, which has three areas of emphasis: parent-child interaction, development-centered parenting and family well-being. They teach parents to stimulate their children's early learning by facilitating activities that encourage language development, intellectual growth and motor skills. Parent Educators also familiarize parents with key messages about healthy pregnancies and births, attachment, discipline, health, nutrition, safety, sleep, transitions and routines.

Louisiana's PAT program gives priority to Medicaid-eligible pregnant women, as well as families with children 12 months old and younger. If families meet these criteria and have additional children under 2.5 years of age, these children are also eligible for PAT services. Services include health education, parenting guidance, personal home visits, group meetings, and referrals to resources that help families meet their goals and ensure that their children are healthy, safe, and ready to learn.

The Louisiana PAT program complements the Bureau of Family Health's well-established Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) home visiting program, which has been operating statewide for approximately 15 years. NFP, which is designed for first-time moms, uses registered nurses as home visitors and currently serves Medicaid-eligible, pregnant women throughout their pregnancy until their child turns 2 years old.

For more information about the Louisiana Bureau of Family Health's home visiting programs, please visit the or call 1800-251-BABY (2229).  You may also contact the Bureau of Family Health at 504-568-3504.