Among the roughly 2,200 pages of the Consolidated Appropriations Act is a little-known program that has helped families lift themselves out of poverty, improve educational attainment and disrupt the cycle of poverty in tribal areas for decades.
The Family and Child Education (FACE) program is the only federally funded early childhood education program operated through the Bureau of Indian Education. What makes it more unique is that it works with children and families together in a two-generation approach that supports parents in teaching their children. The FACE program recognizes parents as their child’s first and most influential teacher; increases parent participation in their child’s learning and expectations for academic achievement; supports and celebrates the unique cultural and linguistic diversity of each community served; strengthens family-school-community connections; and promotes lifelong learning.
Home-based FACE is an evidence-based, culturally competent implementation of the Parents as Teachers home visiting model. Local community members, many of them graduates of the FACE program themselves, provide the home visits and work with families to increase school readiness and improve parent knowledge of early childhood development and parenting practices. This includes identifying delays and health issues and preventing child abuse and neglect.
The Center-based FACE family literacy and family engagement model, administered by the National Center for Families Learning, is focused on high-quality instruction for children and adults, professional development and evaluation. This unique school-based approach to education provides early childhood education while simultaneously meeting the unmet academic needs of parents. Adult students also learn parenting skills and strategies, which has lasting effects for both generations.
The FACE program works. Annual independent evaluations include among their findings that 78 percent of FACE parents read to their children daily as compared to a national average of 38 percent. This statistic alone speaks volumes to the impact of the program and its lasting benefits. Additional notable results include a reduction in the need for school-aged special education by 50 percent for children who were identified for early childhood special education and FACE parents are more involved in their child’s education and participate in school events, help with homework and serve on school committees- all of which contribute to the disruption of the cycle of poverty for the next generation. Additional impacts on families include economic mobility, such as increased acquisition of GEDs and jobs.
With bipartisan, bicameral backing, the FACE program just received a funding increase for the second year in a row to expand services to additional tribes. It is heartening to see Congressional recognition for this small but mighty program.