Home Visitation Programs Help Parents, Prevent Abuse

  Raleigh, NC – Kristine awakens frustrated. She hasn’t slept for more than an hour straight in days.  She walks to the crib and lifts her 6-week old little girl, Katy, up into her arms.  She’s crying again.

Its 10:30 in the morning and it feels like the middle of the night. Little Katy just won’t calm down. She’s fed. She’s dry. “What’s wrong with you,” Kristine screams back at the child. She paces the floor, looks the child in the face and lifts her right arm…to the phone. She calls her Family Support Worker for encouragement, advice and to help her get through this moment. 

          Family Support workers are part of Healthy Families America, which offers home visiting and related services to families. Participation in the program is entirely voluntary and aimed at supporting and assisting parents, like Kristine, as they work to meet their children’s developmental needs. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Healthy Families is one of the most hopeful and promising developments that has occurred in the recent memory of those working in the field of child maltreatment.”

          “Thirteen North Carolina communities have implemented Healthy Families programs. They help to prevent child abuse and neglect, while promoting positive parenting and encouraging child health and development,” says Jennifer Tolle, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina and co-chair of the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force. “We need more of these programs put in place in communities throughout the State.”

            Healthy Families is currently available to more than 33,000 families nationwide. Among the range of services that may be provided by home visitors are the following: linking families with primary care physicians, healthcare services, and other social services in the community; tips on how to care for a new baby; and stress management.

In North Carolina, Healthy Families is working closely with other intensive home visiting initiatives through the UNC Intensive Home Visiting Cooperative.  In July of 1999, the Cooperative was established to provide training, technical assistance and quality improvement to home visitation programs, such as Healthy Family sites. The Cooperative is a collaborative effort supported by Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health, UNC Children’s Primary Care Research Group, and NC Division of Women’s and Children’s Health. 

Even though there is tremendous support and evidence that intensive home visitation is effective in helping highly stressed families, there is still a critical need for funding to support and expand these programs across our state. The General Assembly needs to fulfill its responsibility to fund systems and services that respond to the needs of families and children. If this lead is taken, private funders – foundations and corporations – will follow suit to help North Carolina protect its kids.

Last month the NC Department of Health & Human Services released statistics denoting a seven percent rise in children who have been abused and neglected over the previous year in our State. That is one child every five minutes of every day!

 “In order to reverse the steady increase in child maltreatment, we must ensure that all new parents in North Carolina have access to prevention programs, either in their homes and through community-based prevention programs,” says Tolle.

We know that the love and attention that parents and caregivers provide children in their first years of life lay a critical foundation that will last throughout a child’s lifetime. Healthy Families seeks to enhance this foundation by offering new parents the necessary support and resources.

Healthy Families Programs are working in the following counties: Burke, Chatham, Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Jackson, Martin, McDowell, Orange, and Wayne. For a complete listing, please call 1-800-354-KIDS.

To find out how you can help and to request FREE parenting information, call Prevent Child Abuse at (919) 829-8009 or 1-800-354-KIDS or email your request.

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Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina was founded in 1979 by a group of concerned citizens and is the single, statewide not-for-profit organization with the mission of ending child abuse in our state.  
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