- Written by Kim Sharpe Kim Sharpe
Where are the instructions?
Becoming a parent is wrought with emotions. Excitement. Fascination. Satisfaction. Love. Doubt. Frustration. Terror.
Once parents learn they’re expecting, they pour energy into getting ready for the debut of their little bundle of joy. There are names to choose, birthing classes to take, nurseries to decorate. Then the baby is born and people wake to the realization that they have a tiny human to protect and nurture, but no one prepared them for post-birth daily life.
To make their way through the parenting journey, some choose to go it alone, perhaps mimicking what their parents did or relying on advice from friends or the Internet. All of those can be good options, but in northern Colorado, there are so many more. Larimer and Weld Counties have several resources available to new parents to help them get a leg up on what is perhaps one of the most amazing journeys one can ever embark on.
Nurses help families learn the ropes
The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) helps vulnerable first-time parents from the moment they learn they’re expecting. NFP is an evidence-based program that empowers low-income, first-time mothers to become confident parents and strong women by pairing them with nurses who visit them in their home. Through the trusted relationship that develops, new moms gain confidence and skills that help guide them and their children to successful futures. Visits begin during the early stages of pregnancy and continue until the child turns 2 years old.
Ideally, dads participate with their partner so they both become attached to the baby. They also will learn how to support the mom to be as healthy as she can be. If dads aren’t available during visit times, nurses encourage moms to convey information to them. But sometimes, moms go back to work soon after the birth of their baby and it’s the dads who stay home during the day taking care of their baby and who meet with the nurses. The program strives to be flexible and meet the needs of each family.
Brenda Graves, supervisor of Larimer County’s NFP, stresses that the program is only available to first-time moms. “We provide professional support, guide young women and families to resources they need, and help them achieve a healthy pregnancy and delivery by pairing them with a caring, compassionate nurse who will help them know fact from fiction. We want to help them accomplish their goals of being good parents right from the start.”
Give your baby the best start
Best Start for Babies and Toddlers is a series of 10 classes that offer parents education and support that builds confidence in their ability to respond to their children in healthy and positive ways. Participants who attend eight or more class sessions show significant improvement in knowledge of child development and parental skills.
The program is available at no cost in Larimer and Weld Counties for parents who are pregnant or have a child birth to 3 years of age. Classes are offered in English and Spanish. The next set of classes for Best Start for Babies in Weld County will begin the last week in January and run through March 2016 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church with childcare on-site. No dates have been set for classes in Larimer County.
Bright beginnings ahead
Bright by Three (formerly Bright Beginnings) trained staff provide home and small group visits that help parents, grandparents and other care providers understand their baby and toddler’s physical, emotional and intellectual development during the critical first three years of life. One visit per year is offered in English and Spanish to parents of children ages birth to three years. Participants receive a bag filled with age-specific child development information and resources at the end of each annual visit.
A new component has been added to the program called Bright by Text. Parents participating in the program can opt in to receive one to two text messages per week that contain parenting tips and resources.
“Bright by Text allows us to remind parents often about how important talking, playing and thinking are to their child during the first three years of life. They are crucial for healthy child development and can affect the future life of the child, says Jennifer Cajina Grigsby, Bright by Three coordinator. “We try to make information easy for moms and dads to understand because we know they may be feeling overwhelmed with being new parents.”
Bright by Three plans to partner with other agencies like Safe Care Colorado, childcare centers and libraries to help develop text messages and give parents information about local resources. Other future visions for the program include adding a prenatal campaign and curricula to serve families with children up to 60 months.
School readiness begins early
Be Ready navigators help families find resources they need related to early childhood (birth through age 8 years) and supporting parents as you they prepare their children to enter school. The areas of focus include health and activity, language and learning, and feelings and behavior.
“We’re located at the Community Life Center at Fullana Learning Center in Fort Collins,” explains Nicole Armstrong, Be Ready early childhood navigator and supervisor. “People can visit our website, drop in or call us. The goal is to increase kiddos’ readiness for school by providing parenting classes and support, teaching positive behavior techniques and helping families locate community resources they might need.”
More early childhood resources
The Early Childhood Council of Larimer County (ECCLC), the Estes Valley Investment in Childhood Success and the United Way of Weld County provide northern Colorado parents with child care referrals and access to parenting resources, too.
ECCLC has a collection of materials, which can be borrowed, mainly books and catalogs, on topics relevant to parents and others interested in the field of early childhood (birth to age eight) care and education. Locate a list of what’s available at www.ecclc.org. You can check out items from ECC’s Resource Library in the lobby of its office at 1730 S. College Ave., Ste. 200. A variety of free materials are available in there, also.
“Parents are their first and most important teacher,” says Bev Thurber, ECCLC executive director. “Understanding what children learn at each stage of growth helps you understand how to best support your own baby/child’s discovery and learning. Being ready for school is more than learning the ABC’s, and it begins at birth. Taking parenting education classes can give you ideas on how to help your baby/child grow and development, as well as introduce you to others who are also learning about parenthood.”
BE READY Larimer
970-449-5191 or www.bereadylarimercounty.org
Best Start for Babies and Toddlers
Larimer County: 970-970-449-5191 or www.bereadylarimercounty.org
Weld County: 970-304-6173 or www.unitedway-weld.org/promisesforchildren/best-start-for-babies
Estes Valley Investment in Childhood Success
970-586-3055 or www.evics.org
Larimer County: 970-498-6732 or www.larimer.org/health/chs/nursepart.asp
Weld County: 970-304-6420 x.2330 or www.co.weld.co.us/Departments/HealthEnvironment/ClientHealthServices/NurseFamilyPartnership.html
United Way of Weld County