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About half of the children in Ector County are not on track with all of their developmental milestones

Here’s a startling reality: more than half of children in Ector County are not ready for school.

“We all say our children are our future and it’s true,” Dr. Diana Ruiz, First Five Program Director said. “We’re only as good as our next generation.”

UT Permian Basin’s First Five program is on the front lines of that battle working to set young families up for success. The grant-funded program is currently registering families who are qualified for any of its four home-visit services.

“We’d really like to see 100 families register,” Dr. Ruiz said. “We really want to expand our services and get back up to volume.”

Dr. Ruiz shared results from the most recent Early Development Instrument Data report and found that about half of the children in Ector County are not on track with all of their developmental milestones.

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“It’s disheartening, but yet it gives us promise that we can impact that number by reaching more families and intervene early on,” she said.

Dr. Ruiz says the first five years of life are crucial for a child socially and academically. She feels if they start school prepared, they’ll have a brighter future.

“We really want to prepare these children for kindergarten. A lot of the programs we offer are home visits. They’re completely free. They engage the children and prepare the parents,” Dr. Ruiz said.

Four services operate under the First Five program. Home visitors work with first-time mothers.  They can help families track important milestones and offer support to young fathers. 

“Some of our programs focus on school readiness. We want to make sure that the child is learning to read, that their interacting socially and ready for kindergarten and grades beyond,” Dr. Ruiz said. “We really tailor our services based on a family’s needs.”

The First Five staff have made signing up easy.

 “It’s a very open referral process. A parent can call us at our main number, ask questions and we can help guide them to what program might be best for them,” Dr. Ruiz said.

Those interested in learning more can call: 432-552-4025.

More information about the programs operating within First Five:

Nurse Family Partnership (NFP)– This program offers free pregnancy education for first-time mothers. NFP helps first-time moms prepare for the birth of their first child and gives support through curriculum, home visits and referrals to community resources. 

Parents as Teachers (PAT)– This is a free parent support program that focuses on families with children ages 0-5. PAT provides parents with information and activities designed to help your baby and toddler achieve important child development skills and milestones. As your child’s first teacher, you’ll be able to promote learning in the areas of language, literacy, emotional and social skills and healthy physical development.

Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY)– This program is focused on educating children, empowering families and enriching communities. This is a free, 30-week, home based kindergarten readiness program for children ages 3-5. HIPPY providers come to your home once a week and provide materials that increase parent and child interaction.

Fatherhood Engagement Program(24:7 Dad)– This is designed to enhance the role fathers play in the child’s life and stresses the importance of being an active father. This program offers group education for fathers of young children. Learn more at fatherhood.org.

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