There is no manual on how to raise a child. Ask anyone who is a parent and they’ll likely tell you it’s not an easy job.
Fortunately, Newport County has a great resource for parents of children ages 0 to 3: Baby Steps, a nine-month parent / caregiver program that helps them gain confidence in their parenting skills and understand how. their child learns, communicates and develops.
The free program, which has been around for 10 years and merged with the East Bay Community Action Program (EBCAP) three years ago, takes place on the first Saturday morning of each September through May at the Florence Gray Center. The program has been so successful that a second five-month session has been added Thursday evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., which begins Jan. 24, at EBCAP Headstart.
“We have learned that the small [groups] are better and increase our retention rate, ”said Amintha Cinotti, Chairman of the Board of Baby Steps.
She added that there were also families who were unable to attend the Saturday sessions, which take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., but expressed interest in an evening program. “We didn’t want to just pack more families into our Saturday program,” she said. “We have learned that quality is better than quantity. We want to build relationships and see these families grow.
Saturday morning sessions include breakfast, a lively and interactive educational part, an arts and crafts segment, and a reading and music part, while the Thursday evening program will include a light dinner and an educational play with a longer discussion time. Families will then receive a craft to do at home with their children. Both sessions offer babysitting services and interesting activities for older siblings. Free books and diapers will be available for Saturday and Thursday sessions.
The educational segment, which is taught by a professional in the field, such as an early childhood educator or speech language pathologist, explores the skills parents should develop and the challenges they face in communication, learning styles. , positive parenting and social / emotional development.
Donna Kelly, a second-grade teacher at Pell Elementary School, who was the guest speaker at the Jan. 5 meeting, focused her interactive discussion on how children learn.
“My goal today is to highlight that parents are the first teachers of children,” she said. “And then once they’re in school, I want to encourage the parents / guardians to stay very involved in their child’s education. [from] Kindergarten to Grade 12.
Cinotti said the goal of the program is for parents to gain confidence in their abilities as a parent and have more tools to deal with difficult situations.
“We are doing pre and post survey work and we have heard that parents feel much more confident in dealing with challenges that may arise. It’s pretty amazing to see some parents come in at the start and they’re a little nervous but a lot more relaxed at the end, ”said Cinotti. “Baby Steps is for parents to be with their children and learn more about their development and how to play and have fun together. ”
Cinotti said the program also helps parents determine next steps, such as kindergarten, daycare and beyond.
Jennifer Gee, Baby Steps Program Coordinator for EBCAP, said she wanted parents to leave the program to better understand their child’s development and behavior.
“I hope they leave us with the tools and resources they need to be better parents,” she said. “We really hope that we have laid the groundwork for them so that they can come out and take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way.”
Gee, Cinotti and a group of volunteers dedicated their Saturday mornings to the program. As a result, many families feel comfortable sharing their struggles and accomplishments as parents and building relationships with program facilitators.
Gee said she sometimes gets a text from a partying parent because their child is finally clean, had a successful birthday party, or feels like they handled a situation well. difficult, thanks to parenting tools and self-confidence. gave them.
“Our families recognize that we care deeply about Baby Steps and are very committed to them and their children,” said Gee. “I think they feel like we’re partners with them, and they want to celebrate those successes with us.”
From talking to many of the families involved, it is clear that Baby Steps is a valuable program in Newport County. Some families return year after year with their young children.
Shamar Giddings Julius attends with his 3-year-old daughter Danica and said that they have both benefited enormously from the social interaction. Danica used to say ‘no’ to him over and over again, Julius said, but she learned to help him calm down in those moments and listen to him.
“I incorporated a lot of the skills I learned here at home or wherever I am with Danica,” she said. “I noticed a big difference in our relationship.
For the past seven years, Josh Schuy and Katelynn Chapman have brought their kids to Baby Steps. Their youngest child, Penelope, 2, didn’t like talking to people before coming to the program.
“She had to wear a helmet when she was very little so she didn’t interact with others a lot, but now she enjoys talking and being with other people who started here at Baby Steps,” Chapman said. “We also learned to communicate better with our children instead of saying ‘no’ to them all the time, and learned new ways to deal with potentially difficult situations, such as long trips in the car and running errands with our children. ”
As the mother of a 9-year-old, Gee knows that being a parent can be isolating at times. Having a group of people who are in the same stage of life can be incredibly encouraging, she said.
“I think Baby Steps is an important part of the larger community effort to really support parents of young children and help all of the kids in Newport County continue and be successful,” she said. “We put our young children first and work to build strong families and children. ”
For more information and to register for the Thursday night program, which will take place at the EBCAP Headstart facility, contact Gee at 401-533-1160 or [email protected]