Programs available for kids, parents

How many times have you heard people say that "there isn't enough help for struggling families raising children"? Or heard new parents say that they "wish children came with instruction manuals so they knew how to best take care of their child"? Wichita County is fortunate to have three programs that hope to combat this issue. It's called the Wichita County Texas Home Visiting Initiative, made possible through a $1.3 million-a-year grant provided to the North Texas Area United Way by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in conjunction with the Health Resources and Services Administration.

This initiative is comprised of three nationally-ranked and evidence-based programs with a goal of showing parents how to become their child's first teacher. In a sense, it provides part of that instruction manual that parents wish they had. Each program is unique in its very own way.

The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) assists first-time moms-to-be who are no more than 27 weeks pregnant prepare for the arrival of their new babies. I cannot relate to this personally, but I have heard countless stories of sleepless and worry-filled nights that first time families have endured. The purpose of the nurse home visitors isn't to replace wellness or doctor visits, but to be that first-time mom's cheerleader; helping her to ask and answer the tough questions. Once the baby is born, home visits continue until the child turns two years of age.

The Parents as Teachers (PAT) program is for families with children from birth to five years of age. Everyone knows that the stronger a family is, the more successful that child is likely to be. That is exactly what the PAT program strives to accomplish with each and every visit. In Wichita County, the Parent Educators are all former educators and administrators within the school system. They continuously monitor for developmental delays, vision and hearing problems, and countless other potential deficits. Along with developmental screenings, obtainable goals are also established for both the child and the parents. By challenging the parents to set goals themselves, it helps to keep them accountable for their actions. Together, these goals can improve the overall family dynamics.

Finally, for parents of children three to five years there is the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program. Don't let the name fool you. This is an intellectual, evidence-based program targeted at parents with youngsters age three to five. Each school year, home visitors provide weekly visits to all families enrolled in the program. Each visit provides the family with a new developmentally and age-appropriate activity. The home visitors first role play the activity with the parent and then encourage them to emulate the activity throughout the week. The purpose of the activities is to not only stimulate the mind of the child but also help strengthen the bond between parent and child.

All three programs are evidenced-based. Each has a proven track record of showing greater advancements in developmental attributes for those children who have completed one or more of these programs versus those who have never been enrolled. No family is ever forced or required to participate in any of the Texas Home Visiting Initiatives. Each family must decide independently whether or not they believe these specific programs can benefit their child. In the end, we can all agree on one simple principle; that every child has the right to succeed in today's world. I believe that these programs help advance that effort in our community and with your help we can solidify these programs for generations to come.

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