Welcome Baby & Beyond is one of RISE’s early childhood home visiting programs. Program lead, Zara Nehls, talks a little about the program, what they do, and it’s importance in the community.  Take it away, Zara (highlighted in the yellow box in the photo!).

The Welcome Baby & Beyond program is an affiliate of the national home visiting model Parents As Teachers and just like the model, we also believe that parents are the first and best teacher of their children. Family Support Specialists are there to provide educational, emotional, and physical support to parents so that they can do the same for their children. Staff are trained as Certified Parent Educators to support parents/caregivers and the goal of each visit is to address 3 main components: Parent-Child Interaction, Child Development and Family Well-being. Each visit is thoughtfully planned out ahead of time with individual attention to the family, and the staff create a “lesson plan” that is created with the family’s needs or questions in mind which address all 3 components listed above.

Welcome Baby & Beyond invites all families to participate in home visiting regardless of race, socio-economic status, language, family make up, or citizenship status. We know that being a parent and raising children is hard work and it deserves support! That being said, many families enrolled in home visiting are often low income or from marginalized communities and so much of our work with families tends to live in the Family Well-being portion of visits, but our aim is still to address each area as we can.  WBB staff support families in connecting with community resources on a regular basis. It’s so helpful when staff can connect families with other resources and supportive people so that the visits can still address areas of concern or attention to parent-child interaction and child development, which are often the first things to be neglected when basic needs like housing, employment or mental health barriers arise.

Examples of the 3 main components:

Parent-Child Interaction includes facilitating play and fun between the parent and child. This might be a toy that the staff person brings, household items, or a toy that the family makes together during the visit. The model provides handouts and activities that explain the benefit of the planned activity for the parents.

Child Development includes discussion and educational handouts on things like attachment, toilet training, safety, nutrition, teething, breastfeeding, sleeping, routines, etc.

Family Well-being might be a discussion around sibling rivalry, how it can be tough to balance work and being a parent, a depression screener, a trip with the family to a doctor visit, challenges of co-parenting, resource connections, etc.

Typically, staff bring the items to families for the parent-child interaction, along with a book as part of a lending library system but the pandemic has changed the ease of this routine. Since March, staff have been connecting with families on zoom video visits or phone calls, and while this is not quite the same as being in home, it’s still a wonderful way to stay connected during these hard times. Staff are currently putting together materials to drop off to families to ensure that they can still have fun, play and learn at home!

Another component of the program that has changed is our Parent Groups. We usually offer a family social or parent group each month of the year. Sometimes these groups are similar to field trips to community places or events, such as a day at the Henry Vilas Zoo or a few hours at Legacy Academy, and other times we make a meal and enjoy each other’s company making arts and crafts at our Fordem location. COVID 19 has not made these groups possible in person but we’ve gotten creative by hosting them on zoom. Our zoom parent groups have varied on topics such as music and dance, to mindfulness and yoga. For our October Parent Group, we are hosting a Costume and Pretend Play party. We look forward to continued creativity as we adapt to connecting with families in this virtual world.

Lastly, we are noticing a much higher demand in concrete support and resources like gift cards for gas, groceries, formula or paying for bills and clothing for growing children.  While we were able to use funds granted by the United Way of Dane County per COVID related relief, this money was well spent and spent quickly for the 35 families who were currently enrolled. WBB does not have the flexibility of purchasing items like this year-round, however, and now more than ever, we are relying on community support and donations to ensure families have access to what they need and deserve.

We are grateful to have such a passionate staff within our Welcome Baby program and all RISE programs.  Thank you, Zara for sharing with us!

To learn more about the Welcome Baby & Beyond program, check out our programs page!

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