By Tamera Manzanares
An open door and a smile. These simple gestures represent a big success for Kim Maneotis and Jessica Smith, parent support providers with SafeCare Colorado. SafeCare, a program of Northwest Colorado Health, connects parent support providers with families who could use extra support keeping their young children safe and healthy. The free, voluntary program involves weekly visits to families’ homes, where Maneotis and Smith work with parents to build a solid foundation supporting children’s growth during key development years.
The first and most important step is establishing rapport so parents feel comfortable inviting parent support providers into their home. This opens the door to a knowledge-sharing relationship that boosts parents’ confidence and eases the stress of what can be a challenging journey for anyone. “Being a parent is a hard job. All of us need a hand up at some point,” Maneotis said. “If we can provide more information to assist parents on this path, it not only helps them be better parents, it helps them enjoy parenting more.”
SafeCare involves three modules – home safety, child health and parent-child interactions. Parent support providers assess parents’ progress in each module before moving on to the next. It takes about four to six months for families to master the entire program. The home safety portion of the program focuses on identifying and addressing hazards to babies and toddlers on the move. SafeCare provides electrical outlet covers, doorknob covers and other items families need to protect their children from common household hazards.
Parents who reach the child health module receive a first aid kit and manual to guide them through common child illnesses and injuries. They discuss different scenarios – how to care for their child at home, when they should see a doctor and when to seek emergency care. Parents also receive guidance on developing healthy bonds with their babies and establishing routines and expectations to encourage good behavior as children grow. “Our mission is to empower parents,” Smith said. “We want to build on what they know and give them the skills they need to be self-sufficient and advocate for their families.”
Twenty-five families have completed all three modules since Northwest Colorado Health started the program about a year ago in Moffat County. Parent Support Providers are currently working with 33 families in Moffat and Routt counties.
This success recently garnered the program accreditation from the National SafeCare Training and Research Center. The recognition is for programs throughout the nation that demonstrate high quality SafeCare standards in working with families. “We feel very fortunate the program has been embraced by our community and by our families,” Maneotis said. “When parents make a commitment to gain more knowledge and become better parents, that’s really something to celebrate.”
Families who benefit from SafeCare often face hardships related to income, housing, transportation, partner and peer support and health issues. Maneotis and Smith connect parents to community resources that can help with basic living needs so they can focus more on their children’s health and safety. Parent support providers receive referrals from community organizations and health care providers. SafeCare referrals can also come from family members, and parents and caregivers can inquire about the program for themselves.
SafeCare is for families with children five and younger. Get more information or make a referral HERE, or call 970-871-7686.