Understanding that parents are a child’s first teacher

Carlos and Kaden receive individualized services and therapies from Operation Breakthrough, resulting in a healthy relationship that suits them to a T. Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein

Carlos and Kaden receive individualized services and therapies from Operation Breakthrough, resulting in a healthy relationship that suits them to a T. Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein

Many of Operation Breakthrough's families survive on an average of $13,000 a year and face challenges including homelessness, transportation, unemployment and financial instability. Operation Breakthrough helps these families develop positive family relationships despite the challenges. Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein

Operation Connect Family Nights is one of Operation Breakthrough's parent education courses. They are held after hours and offer free childcare, dinner and multiple groups for parents to participate. Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein

At Operation Connect Family Nights, parents can chose from play groups with their infant, parenting skills group, and caregiver wellness groups that teach mindfulness to increase emotional regulation, and caregiver capacity. Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein

Parents can also attend daily educational and therapeutic groups offered onsite that help manage the effects of toxic stress, increase healthy attachment, and promote positive relationships. A win for parents and children! Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein

Therapists lead therapeutic play and music groups in Operation Breakthrough's early childhood classrooms, equaling a total of 250 hours by the time a child reaches Pre-K rooms. Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein

Operation Breakthrough supports parents like Kiya so they can build healthy relationships with their children despite everyday stresses. Photo credit: Gloria Baker Feinstein


Every weekday, 400 children and their families make their way to Operation Breakthrough, an early education center the heart of Kansas City. We strive to provide multi-generational support to children and their families through a lens of practice that promotes resiliency and healthy attachment. Parents play the critical role of being their child’s first teacher – and for there to be significant systemic impact, we must support parents in this endeavor. Many of our families survive on an average of $13,000 a year and face challenging circumstances including homelessness, transportation, unemployment and financial instability.

Research shows certain factors can strengthen a family’s level of safety, stability and future outcomes; these include healthy attachment, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete supports, social connection, parent resilience, and social and emotional competence of the child. Recognizing the risk factors our children and families face, we have built responsive and layered programming to buffer the effects of adverse childhood experiences, trauma and toxic stress.

We start by front-loading prevention in our infant and toddler classrooms. Therapists provide attachment-based play and music groups for 96 children. These therapeutic layers in place for our early childhood classrooms equal a cumulative total of 250 hours by the time a child reaches our Pre-K rooms.

Daily educational and therapeutic groups are offered onsite for parents. Interventions are informed by evidence-based practice helping to develop skills in managing emotions and the effects of toxic stress, increasing healthy attachment, and promoting positive relationships. Parents are the barometer for their child, if mom is stressed and upset – baby mirrors this response. Having skills to deal with stressful events leads to a greater likelihood that their child will also have those skills.

We are on our third year of offering Operation Connect Family Nights, these parent education courses are held after hours and offer free child care, dinner, and multiple groups for parents to participate. Parents can choose from play groups with their infant, parenting skills group and caregiver wellness groups that teach mindfulness to increase emotional regulation and caregiver capacity.

Additionally, we offer individual therapeutic and case management services for children and families. This approach is helping families thrive through various personalized options for engagement. By offering more than a one-size-fits-all model to therapy services, we are able to meet our families where they are at and begin the journey from their own starting place.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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