February is Family Support Awareness Month. This time of year highlights the critical work done by specific Smart Start-funded programs, home visiting and parenting education (HVPE). Early childhood home visiting and parenting education programs strengthen the relationship between parents and children, increasing parenting skills and building confidence. By supporting families, these programs ensure children are ready to learn, improve child health and keep children safe.

Well-trained professionals deliver HVPE programs throughout Mecklenburg to support parents and caregivers, promote healthy child development, and strengthen family relationships. These programs create a support system for families and ensure children are ready to learn. Home visiting – one end of the HVPE continuum – provides intensive, personalized support that improves prenatal health and birth outcomes, increases parent protective factors, and reduces incidents of maltreatment and neglect.

Family Support Awareness Month is significant to Smart Start because we serve as the innovative hub, community convener, and leading organization regarding prenatal-to-five issues and initiatives in Mecklenburg County. At Smart Start of Mecklenburg County, we do our work, not in isolation but with and through our partners in the community. Please continue reading to learn more about three home visiting programs made available to the community through our partnerships.

The Parents as Teachers (PAT) program aims to provide parents with child development knowledge and parenting support. The PAT model includes one-on-one home visits, monthly group meetings, developmental screenings, and a resource network for families.

Safe Journey targets teen parents to provide them support and motivation to finish high school and plan for self-sufficiency either through higher education or trade school. Only about half of teen mothers earn a high school diploma by age 22, compared to 90 percent of women without a teen birth. Teenage mothers are also more likely to live in poverty and depend on public assistance. Children born to teen parents are more likely to have lower school achievement, enter the child welfare and correctional systems, drop out of high school, and become teen parents themselves.

With the support of Safe Journey, [a parent] has been able to identify early developmental concerns and get her son on a plan towards a positive outcome.

Parents as Teachers – YMCA of Greater Charlotte

Parent involvement is a critical link in a child’s development of learning skills. The YMCA-Parents as Teachers (YPAT) works with families in Mecklenburg County who expect or have at least one child under the age of five. The mission of Parents as Teachers (PAT) is to provide the information, support, and encouragement parents need to help their children develop optimally during the crucial early years of life. They provide free books, referral services, and group connections at no cost.

YPAT offers an alternative option of Virtual Learning and flexible scheduling to accommodate family’s hours. Approximately 86% of participants are Spanish-speaking families.

Because of a parent educator, a child has received “speech therapy and is communicating according to his age and stage and has enrolled in preschool. Mom is working on her parenting skills with all of her children…”

Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is an evidence-based home visiting model that pairs income-eligible mothers with specially trained nurses starting in early pregnancy and continuing until the child’s second birthday. During visits, nurses work to reinforce maternal behaviors consistent with program goals and encourage positive behaviors and accomplishments. Topics of the visits include prenatal care, caring for an infant, and nurturing young children’s emotional, physical, and cognitive development.

Nurse-Family Partnership provided [the parents] both education and guidance on what to expect during the pregnancy, childbirth, and the developmental milestones their daughter should be reaching.

Background

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County is a leader in the community regarding all children prenatal to five.

We administer four internal programs and campaigns and invest in more than 20 other programs in the community. All programs focus on family support (including the abovementioned), early care and education, health, and literacy. Family support programs exist on a continuum and include parent education and home visiting programs. As with all our efforts, these programs are evidence-based and have a proven track record of helping families succeed.

Many of our programs provide family support but are not be categorized as such. For example, The Learning Collaborative and Charlotte Bilingual Preschool provide parent education and support through parenting education programs like Triple P. Guiding Parents to Services provides family support through Circle of Parents, and Thompson uses Circle of Parents to support grandparents. They also offer parent education through the Incredible Years Program.

How You Can Get Involved

Share your stories! We want to hear personal stories from practitioners and parents/caregivers that highlight the importance of family support programs are in our community. There are two different portals for story sharing. You can submit via email here or share on social media using the following hashtags.

  • #SmartStart
  • #MecklenburgCounty
  • #FamilySupportNC
  • #ThinkBabiesNC
  • #ECE
  • #EarlyChildhood
  • #StrongFamilies
  • #HomeVisitingWorks
  • #ParentingEdWorks

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