By Tamera Manzanares
Raising children is a constant education process. Parents must continually adjust and expand their parenting skills to keep children safe and healthy as they grow. This can be challenging for anyone, but some families may also face hardships related to income, housing, partner and peer support, physical and mental health can present additional hardships that make it more difficult for parents to keep up with their child’s development and needs.
April Anthony is Women and Family Program Manager at Northwest Colorado Health. She oversees programs aimed at supporting young families who are facing challenges with education and tools to help them build healthy futures. “Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual,” she said. “We have some tips and tools that work, and we are happy to share those to help families in their journey.”
Northwest Colorado Health has a new parent support program in its toolbox. SafeCare Colorado is for parents and caregivers who have children age five and younger. The free voluntary program recently launched in Moffat County and will expand to Routt County by early summer.
Families in SafeCare receive regular visits from parent support providers who are trained to help parents or caregivers build on their knowledge of home safety, child health and parent-child interactions. Each topic involves weekly sessions. Support providers assess parents’ progress in each session before moving on to the next. It takes about four to six months for families to master the entire program. “We are not there judge parents or tell them how to raise their children,” Anthony said. “Our goal is to help parents build on the skills they already have.”
Home safety includes sessions that identify hazards in the home. Parents receive child safety locks and make adjustments to prevent children from harming themselves. The child health portion of the program includes a manual to guide families through common illnesses and health issues. They discuss different scenarios and how to care for the child at home, when they should see a doctor and when emergency care is necessary. They also receive tips on keeping health records and how to talk to the child’s healthcare provider.
Parent-child interaction sessions include guidance for parents on developing healthy and important bonds with their infants and, as children grow, establishing routines and expectations to encourage good behavior. Families also learn strategies to manage parenting frustrations.
SafeCare Colorado began as a pilot program in 2013 to help prevent child neglect and abuse. A recent evaluation found that families who completed SafeCare were significantly less likely to have an open child welfare case six months after completion when compared to similar Colorado families. SafeCare is now available in 41 Colorado counties. “With all of the great success and research that goes into programs such as SafeCare, we are able to share information in a way that fits different families’ lives and increase their knowledge of successful parenting and life skills,” Anthony said.
SafeCare depends on community partners to help identify families that need extra support. Many referrals come from child safety departments. Anthony will also be reaching out to pediatricians and healthcare providers and child health organizations with information about the program and its benefits. Referrals also can come from family members, and parents can inquire about it for themselves.
For more information about SafeCare, contact April Anthony at 970-871-7686 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.