By Heather Getty and Jessica Gladden
Special to the Messenger
This is the fourth of a nine part series with the goal of capturing those people or organizations in our community who are working to cultivate each of the nine components of resilience and highlight a youth voice impacted by this work.
ALBANS — Safety, both physical and psychological, is essential to helping children develop resilience, the ability to withstand life’s ups and downs, according to researcher Michael Unger.
Franklin County Home Health’s home visit program is one of many programs in the area that help parents and families provide that safety.
Jessica Boyea, the Maternal Child Health Manager at FCHHA, highlighted the home visits as a way of connecting families to available resources as a way to ensure that family needs are met.
One of the biggest benefits of participating in the program is that services are provided in the home; this helps in a rural area where transportation is often a challenge for families.
Nurses are able to work with families from pregnancy until the child’s second birthday, crafting an individualized plan of care. The families identify areas where they would like support and nurses help families to feel empowered by recognizing and highlighting strengths.
“We let the client be the expert in their own life because they are,” said Boyea.
Families develop relationships with their visiting nurse as they learn about child development and are able to ask their nurse questions about concerns they may have concerning their children. Nurses often work with other community partners and provide referrals to other services that will help the family get their needs met. One of those referred services is maternal mental health counseling provided by Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS) in the home for mothers experiencing a postpartum mood disorder.
There are barriers to establishing safety for many of the families in our region. A lack of affordable housing and available childcare makes it difficult for families to get their basic needs met.
There tends to be a distrust of service providers in our rural communities, but Boyea shared that FCHHA has “built a good network of home providers and the relationships being formed are changing that mindset.”
Speaking with someone who has received services in the home from both FCHHA and Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS), we found that the relationships formed are an important part of establishing a sense of feeling safe in the community.
Catherine (name has been changed to protect confidentiality) has a young child and is one of the mothers who have graduated from FCHHA’s home visiting program. She shared that service providers provided support for her in identifying and accessing childcare in order to attend school and work.
Catherine gets information about local events she attends with her child that promote connection to her community.
When asked how her quality of life has improved, she said, “independence, I have my own housing, full-time childcare, and a job. I feel more prepared to provide safety for my child and myself.”
Providing education about child development helps caregivers to know the difference between wants and needs for their children; it also provides the caregivers with knowledge so that they can keep an eye out for anything that may be out of the ordinary for their child and take the necessary steps to have issues addressed quickly. Home visiting provides support in the home and can often address caregiver concerns before they become bigger issues.
Physical and psychological safety is important for anyone’s development. In order for people to learn and grow, they must first feel safe to explore. This sense of safety begins early in development when children are first exploring their world and caregivers give them the opportunity to try new things. Caregivers can provide a home where children are encouraged to take risks.
Practical things caregivers can do:
Distinguish between what a child needs and wants
Help children access available services
Explore options when formal services are unavailable (food shelves, churches, local clubs, etc.)
Access extended family, friends, and other informal supports to help children
Ensure access to healthy food for children
Advocate that children get needs met in least intrusive way
Other helpful resources:
Heather Getty is an Adolescent Services Team Leader at Northwestern Counseling & Support Services.
Jessica Gladden is an Adolescent Services Specialist.