Have you heard of Ohio Help Me Grow? The statewide, evidence-based program offers support to pregnant women or new parents. Trained home visitors – including nurses and social workers – meet with clients in their homes to assist in promoting healthy growth and development in babies and young children.
The NFP program provides nurse home visitation for first-time, low-income mothers from early pregnancy up to the child’s second birthday. NFP improves pregnancy outcomes by encouraging preventive health practices. NFP clients will learn and practice things to improve their confidence as mothers, such as breastfeeding, nutrition, child development, safe-sleep techniques and more.
The HFA program provides home visitation, also for first-time mothers and fathers, from pregnancy until the child’s third birthday. HFA is designed to ensure children are healthy, safe and ready to learn. HFA focuses on improving child health and development, increasing family connectedness to community and social support, and improving parenting confidence and competence.
Help Me Grow Program Clinical Coordinator, Justin Fogt, explains how home visitation programs affect family outcomes in a positive way – including the ability to prevent child abuse and neglect by creating a more stable and safe home environment.
“The first objective of the Help Me Grow program is to establish a relationship with the family. As we know from studying adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and addressing trauma, a child is less likely to have ACEs if they connect with one caring, stable adult in their life. It is our hope that this caring adult will be one of our nurses or social workers. Our focus is to make sure families feel supported by us providing education and intervention.”
Another objective of the program is to empower families to make informed decisions about parenting.
Help Me Grow clients may have experienced healthy or unhealthy home environments when they were children. As trauma-informed professionals, we do know that if clients learned that certain unhealthy behavior was “normal,” then they are likely to repeat the cycle with their own children, even if it is subconsciously.
Home visitors provide motivational interviewing, which helps first-time parents think about long-term positive changes with their new family. Help Me Grow home visitors are trained to ask clients how they learned right from wrong when they were growing up. They may also ask what they liked or did not like about their parents’ rules or actions. This helps the home visitors to understand client mindsets, and to determine if any potentially harmful or unhealthy habits will carry through to their child.
As Help Me Grow clients advance throughout the program, they will learn that there are certain times in their babies’ life where abuse and neglect are more likely to occur. These times are called “mental milestones.” For example, a baby on a normal developmental track begins to crawl between 4 and 6 months. This adds more stress to the parent because the child is becoming mobile, which increases risk for injury around the home.
Another “mental milestone” occurs between 10 and 16 months, when a baby goes from crawling to walking. Help Me Grow nurses and social workers provide tips and education on home safety to minimize injuries.
A later “mental milestone” that causes frustration and stress is potty training, which for most toddlers, occurs anywhere between ages 2 and 3. Help Me Grow home visitors provide developmentally appropriate expectations to new parents. For example, a child’s anatomy is different from an adult’s, in that children do not have muscle development to be able to “hold it” and make it to the bathroom in time to prevent an accident.
“We want to highlight our program’s ability to increase parental emotional capacity, particularly feeling empathy,” Fogt said. “If the parent grew up in an empathetic and nurturing environment, it is likely that this type of thinking will come more naturally to them. However, if they grew up in an unhealthy environment with constant stress, and their number one priority was surviving one day at time, it is harder to develop and feel this type of emotion for others, especially a child.”
Through prevention, education and support, Help Me Grow works within the community to deliver best outcomes for both parent and baby.
Contact us at The Center for Family Safety and Healing to discuss enrolling in these programs, or to make a referral:
- NFP Supervisor, Rachel, at 614-722-8303
- HFA Supervisor, Suzanna, at 614-722-8224
Additional resources for Central Ohio families:
Ohio Department of Health Help Me Grow Resources