KeepHealthCare.ORG – Community members, local officials launch ‘Childhood Begins at Home’ campaign
WEST CHESTER >> Chester County’s most vulnerable families are getting a boost from several home visitation programs.
Some living in poverty are at risk of abuse and neglect, but thanks to several agencies, they are benefiting with improved health, safety and stability.
On Friday, about two dozen stakeholders, a pair of state representatives, several representatives of public officials, and two beneficiaries, locally launched the “Childhood Begins at Home” campaign to support the development and safety of Chester County Children and Families, at the Maternal and Childcare Health Consortium, on Barnard Street.
Bruce Clash, state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, received the support of state Reps. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, and Eric Roe, R-158.
“The risk that children face is not of their own causing,” Clash said. “They can’t choose their parents.
“Sometimes parents need extra help.”
Home visits act as building blocks, aiding in the development and safety of the county’s most vulnerable children.
State and federal funding runs about $50 million per year and home advocates want to boost funding levels by another $6.5 million.
The agencies support the $6.5 million increase, with $5.3 million destined for community-based family centers, and $1.2 million in nurse-family partnership line items. The funding would be earmarked to expand evidence-based home visits to an additional 800 families and train staff to better support families dealing with the opioid crisis.
Maritza Rivera, Family Center Program Director- Maternal and Child Health Consortium, said that her agency uses the parents as teachers home visiting model. Staffers meet with families until the youngest child turns 5 years old, with twice monthly, one-hour visits.
Through an interpreter, Spanish speaker Carolina Garcia said she learned about other agencies that lend a helping hand.
“I learned how to keep my family together,” she said. “Because of the program, my husband learned how to be involved in education.
“We learned how to better communicate with our children.”
Garcia said she even received help interpreting important letters and correspondence, and her family was given flu shots.
“We share ideas with other parents and interact with other children,” Garcia said.
Pat Yoder works with first-time mother Mackenzie Curtis. Yoder is a supervisor for the Chester County Health Department-Nurse-Family Partnership.
Yoder said that nurses perform home visits for first-time mothers and fathers, starting during pregnancy, presenting “anything that helps to have a good, healthy baby.”
Nurses visit infants through their second year to help support moms and dads. Parents are even taught how to bathe a child.
Curtis said she “didn’t know a lot” but her nurse, Olivia Dimmig taught her how to be a “great mom.”
Curtis said she had never babysat, had no younger siblings and had never held a baby.
“I’m always learning something new,” she said. “Due to the help of my nurses, I’ll always be a better person and mom.”
Rep. Roe said he recently became the father of twins and supports additional funding.
“We’re brand new parents and we didn’t know what we were doing,” Roe said, with a smile.
Rep. Comitta also supports increasing funding for home visits.
“We all know the benefits that we get for every dollar and bit of attention we give our children, moms and dads,” Comitta said.
Statistics supplied by the Childhood Begins at Home campaign show that only 15 percent of Chester County babies born on Medicaid received the appropriate evidence-based home visiting services following their birth last year.
The programs guide the recipients toward education. Only 4 percent of children living in low-income families and 27 percent of children born to a mother without a high school diploma received evidence–based home visiting proven to improve family economic security and early literacy.
Also, only 74 percent of Chester County children under age 6 known to the child welfare system received the appropriate evidence-based home visiting services last year to reduce the likelihood of future child abuse and neglect.