A real-life update 15 years later: Caleb’s story shows first-hand how ParentChild+ program leads to success

ParentChild+ Caleb, Ruth Ann, and Staff

Pictured (from left) are JFCS Director of Children and Family Programs Ruth Paley, former ParentChild+ participants Caleb and Ruth Ann, and Director of Education and Learning Kristi Murray.

Caleb, who participated in ParentChild+ before kindergarten, graduated from high school this spring  

JFCS is always so proud of the hundreds of families that graduate every year from our ParentChild+ program because we know they are taking the steps to set their children up for success. Decades of research shows children who participate in the pre-K home visiting program are 50% less likely to need special education services by third grade and 30% more likely to graduate high school.

Nevertheless, we rarely get to hear firsthand accounts of high school success from former participants simply because it is so many years later. But that’s exactly what happened this spring when Ruth Ann contacted us to proudly announce that her son, Caleb, a former ParentChild+ participant, was graduating high school in June.

“We have always wanted to know more about the families we have served in Minnesota since we brought the program here in 2006,” said Kristi Murray, JFCS Director of Education and Learning. “Ruth Ann and Caleb reaching out after all these years to share with us how much this program supported Caleb’s learning, his school success, and how Ruth Ann was empowered in her parenting was such a wonderful gift to us.”

Providing assistance at a critical time  

Caleb started what was then called the Parent-Child Home Program in 2007, just one year after JFCS established it in Minnesota. Caleb is actually the grandson of Ruth Ann – her son’s son. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Ruth Ann officially adopted him as her son.

Caleb as a child, around the age he participated in ParentChild+

Ruth Ann was referred to the program by the food shelf at STEP in St. Louis Park. It came into their lives at a critical time. Ruth Ann suddenly became a mother of a toddler at an older age while she was needing to work full time – she felt like she had no idea how to help him learn at the time.

Caleb had a lot of big feelings surrounding all that happened to him during his earliest years of life. ParentChild+ staff encouraged Ruth Ann to let Caleb know she hears him and to allow him to process his feelings with her. We also provided referrals to supportive services.

“The way you did things was wonderful for us,” Ruth Ann said about ParentChild+. “You brought such nice things to teach him. It was a godsend. I was very interested in doing it because it was a way to bond with my child and it was a way to learn how he learns. At that time, I needed those tools.”

Caleb is on the Autism spectrum and traditional teaching methods were not working at the time, so ParentChild+ helped Ruth Ann think of creative ways to help him learn. For instance, when staff learned Caleb loved brownies, they encouraged her to cut brownies into different shapes. When he identified the correct brownie shape, he got to eat it. The process was very effective.

“The program taught me about bonding and teaching,” Ruth Ann said. “Caleb has always been a kinesthetic learner – touching, feeling. I would have never known about these things. Everything was a learning experience.”

In fact, when Caleb was in junior high and the shapes and math problems were much more difficult, Ruth Ann advocated with his teachers to teach him in similar kinesthetic methods, knowing it would help. She said ParentChild+ helped her learn how to become an advocate for Caleb throughout his school career.

Caleb’s story inspires others

Caleb is interested in computers and coding – he even built a computer at home all by himself. He hopes to go to the Dunwoody College of Technology to study radiologic technology.

Caleb, pictured in his room with a computer he built all by himself (at right)

He wasn’t the only one to benefit from ParentChild+. Ruth Ann said the program reminded her about the importance of education and inspired her to get two IT tech degrees while she was raising Caleb. She encourages him to keep focusing on his education, no matter how long it takes. “You can do anything you want to do, even if it takes you longer,” she said. “That’s what I tell him.”

Hearing about Caleb’s graduation and how far he has come is inspiring to ParentChild+ staff, Kristi said. “Hearing their success story motivates our team to continue the work of ParentChild+ to support even more families in Minnesota create their own success stories,” she said.

Looking back on how far Caleb has come, Ruth Ann has nothing but immense pride in him and is excited to see what he will accomplish in the future. “I feel something different for Caleb – he has had such adversity in his life,” she said. “He is destined for something great. He is going to influence something that is going to change the world.”


ParentChild+ is a free home visiting program that promotes creative ways to learn through play, increases parenting skills and helps children prepare for school. Participants can select either in-person home visits following safety protocols or virtual visits. Participants will receive deliveries including free books, toys, and guide sheets. Click here for more information and to enroll.

Are you a former ParentChild+ participant? If you/your child participated in the program in the past, we’d love to hear an update on your success! Please contact ParentChild+ Program Manager Chantel Jullie at cjullie@jfcsmpls.org.