Prenatal home parenting program that works differently, but offers the same service during the pandemic


(WSAW) – A free birth to age 3 parenting program through Children’s Wisconsin has seen a decrease in the number of people participating since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state. Program staff want to expect parents to know they are always there to help, even if they can no longer make home visits.

the Northwoods Healthy Families The voluntary program, funded by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, provides prenatal parents with a person to rely on for questions, education and support throughout pregnancy, birth and childbirth. a young child. This specific program serves Lincoln, Langlade, Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties, but the same programs are also run by the Children’s Network elsewhere.

They try to get in touch with interested parents as soon as they know they are pregnant to guide them through pregnancy, birth and child development and take care of the mother who is going through so much. of changes. They then offer education, answer any questions, and provide additional community resources if parents need them.

“They are assigned a home visitor who really stays with them all the time and generally they develop a pretty good relationship and this family really feels that support, she explained. “Especially in these times when so many people feel isolated and we cannot visit our friends and family and it is this ordinary person that they can rely on to see or hear them virtually, no matter what. be the way it works. “

Heather Jordan, prevention supervisor at the Wisconsin Northwoods Children’s Office, said they typically get a lot of referrals from doctors when women do their prenatal visits, but fewer people visit doctors’ offices in general in cause of the pandemic. Community organizations are making recommendations as well, but again people aren’t using these resources the way they used to, so she said she wanted people to know they’re there to help.

“I wish I had had this when I was raising my kids,” she exclaimed. “Kids don’t come with a rule book and we understand that parents need help and it’s okay to ask for help and learn to be the best parent you know you can be. Or maybe you didn’t have this growing up, maybe you’ve had some trauma in your life and we can help you get over some of those issues as well.

Currently, they are monitoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for COVID-19 best practices and making “home” visits instead by video chat or phone to stay in touch with families. If families are comfortable with in-person visits, especially if they don’t have good internet or phone coverage at home, they can meet in person by following COVID-19 precautions.

“It has been a blessing for our family, said Alyssa Garske.

She has been in the program for almost two years. While she and her two daughters, Hope and Sophie, miss seeing their home visitor, Mandy, they continue to benefit from her guidance through phone calls and activity packages in the mail.

“Being able to be reassured, you know, because sometimes as a parent you’re like, ‘Am I doing this right? “And she tells me all the time, you know, ‘You’re doing well,’ and that assurance helps,” she said.

When she started the program, she had just left an abusive relationship and was homeless with her newborn baby, Hope. While trying to start a new life, she said that Mandy was there for her not only for questions and moral support, but that she was there for her to help create that new life.

“I remember when we were trying to make ends meet when it was just her (Hope) and I, I was running out of diapers and didn’t want to ask for help because, I guess, my pride did. obstacle, “she recalls.” But, she gave me diapers, you know, bought a case of diapers for us just to fend for ourselves until I got paid then. “

She also helped Garske get child safety locks and a baby gate. Garske also completed the evidence-based Parents as Teachers program to help his children learn from birth.

“We really love this program because it provides information to the family that lets them know that they really, really are their child’s first teacher,” Jordan said. “Whatever interests them, we make sure to provide information. It could be something like nutrition, safe sleep, maybe they’re curious about the stages of development. “

“With Hope, she has a disability, so helping her in her development is huge,” Garske noted. She teaches sign language, reading and dancing.

However, the program is not just for children, Jordan said it also aims to ensure that the mother and the family as a whole are well as well. Postpartum depression is something she said they try to normalize and help families understand and then connect them to resources when needed.

Jordan and Garske said the key is knowing that it’s okay as a parent to ask for help and allow yourself to be so informed about each child’s development and how you can be the best. best parent for him.

The program is intended for prenatal parents, although there are some exceptions depending on the circumstances. This is not only for new moms, but also for families with existing children. Click here to find the sponsorship form. People can also call (715) 361-6300. Physicians or organizations wishing to refer a patient or family can fax the referral form to (715) 361-6301.

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