If it takes a whole village to raise a child, Richmond and San Pablo have taken the first step.
East Bay nonprofit Brighter Beginnings has partnered with First 5 Contra Costa in the launch of “Hello Baby,” a new home-visiting program in Richmond that provides support and parenting advice to low-income families whose infants come into the world facing possible hardships.
Mo’kquila Brown is a Richmond mother, raising four kids, and has been utilizing services provided by Brighter Beginnings since her first child. Now with her newborn, Shamawn, she said there is no other program like it in this area.
“They help me with clothes, food banks, diapers, community program and just someone to talk to,” Brown said.
First 5 Contra Costa has set aside $1.4 million to give to Brighter Beginnings throughout the next three years to support the program. “Hello Baby” sends out four trained professionals, referred to as parent child educators, to the homes of participants in West Contra Costa County, in an effort to give pregnant women information, education and support during their pregnancy until the child turns two. The initiative also aims to increase social interactions among mothers in distressed communities throughout the county.
“Many of them are really isolated and it is important for them to get engaged with other parents going through similar development with their child,” said Barbara McCullough, executive director at Brighter Beginnings.
Home visits provide a more intimate relationship with families, allowing new or expectant parents to develop a trusting relationship with the home visitors, said McCullough. It also allows the staff to better assess the family’s needs.
“Sometimes you don’t really know until you can be with them in their home…and can sit and listen,” said McCullough.
“Hello Baby” is just one part of the $3.6 million home-visiting service initiative funded by First 5 Contra Costa and carried out by Brighter Beginnings, in West County, and Aspiranet, in East and Central County.
Participants are selected on a voluntary basis. Low birth weight and signs the infant is failing to thrive are indicators that doctors and clinics should refer mothers to the program.
“We are trying to reach out to families most in need and who have the fewest resources,” said McCullough.
During home visits, the trained educators create a personalized plan for each family that includes information and education on child development, breastfeeding, nutrition, immunizations and health insurance. “Hello Baby” also provides postpartum screening for new mothers and developmental screening for young children.
In 2012, the programs served more than 1,048 Bay Area families. One in six of the mothers referred to and screened by the program showed signs of postpartum depression, according to program statistics.
“We are aware of the constraints of poverty and how that plays out in the lives of the families we serve. Our motto is to work with the strengths to build on that resilience. We are privileged to work with them and help their children thrive,” said McCullough.