Rosy was 17 when she found out she was pregnant. She fits a profile of higher risk of abusing her baby, but her story experience shows how local agencies, particularly home visiting programs, help stressed parents take care of their families.
Rosy was afraid to tell her mother or boyfriend about the pregnancy. Finally, when she started showing, she realized she needed to get help. Her high school had a teen parent program so she talked to the teacher, who referred her to local agencies that could help.
After talking to a social worker, Rosy told her mother and began prenatal care. She attended WIC nutrition classes. After class, she filled out a questionnaire for Healthy Families Lane County.
A screener for Parenting Now! Healthy Families contacted Rosy and she accepted the program before her child was born. Healthy Families Lane County is a home visiting and parent support program. It is part of Oregon’s largest child abuse prevention program and is supported by both state and county funding.
Family support workers from Parenting Now!, Relief Nursery and Early Childhood Cares are experts on child and brain development, parenting and health. FSWs help parents connect with resources and support when they have extra challenges. FSWs are like coaches, sharing information and modeling the fun activities parents can do with their babies. With the weekly visits of a friendly, informed FSW, it’s like having a personal trainer and cheerleader.
These programs do come with a price tag – which is why local, state and federal governments, as well as private donors and foundations, help fund them. According to Fight Crime Invest in Kids, every $1 spent on research-based home visiting programs like Healthy Families and the Nurse-Family Partnership generates a return between $4 and $6. Children come to school ready to learn, have fewer health and social needs, grow up to commit fewer crimes and create a return on the investment as healthy, productive adults. These programs reduce child abuse rates, improve parenting skills, increase the time parents spend reading to their child, and help families access medical care. Better yet, they protect children from abuse. This not only saves money, it can save lives. And ultimately, that what is most important, no matter how much it costs.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and this week is also Parent Education Week in Oregon. When we think about child abuse prevention, it’s important to remember that most parents want the best for their children. Some prevention programs work with families who need more support because of issues such social isolation, drug or alcohol histories, young parenting, economic stress, domestic violence or parental history of abuse. Yet all parents can use support.
Who else supports expecting and new parents in Lane County? To list a few, Lane County Public Health nurses visit pregnant women. The Relief Nursery in Eugene and Family Relief Nursery in Cottage Grove offer several services, including a therapeutic preschool and recovery support. Parenting Now! offers its nationally recognized parenting class, Make Parenting a Pleasure®, for families under stress, along with many other classes and groups. Recently, Head Start of Lane County won funding for Early Head Start to support families with children ages 0-3, mostly in their homes. The Family Resource Center Network offers free parenting classes, drop in play groups for parents to get support from their peers and more – often in or near a school.
Many more agencies are out there ready to support families. To find support in our community, call Lane 211 or visit the Family Info Line website. Together, we can create more happy endings like Rosy’s.
This article was written by Nancy Bischof, program manager for Healthy Start Lane County, on behalf of the Early Childhood Planning Team advisory committee to the Lane County Commission on Children and Families. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening families through parent support and education. Explore this site; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram; or call 541-484-5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.