A child’s experiences in their earliest years can lay the foundation for health and well-being throughout their entire lives. A safe, healthy, and positive childhood can give children the tools and confidence they need to become self-sufficient, successful adults. To help give children the best possible start, the Mental Health Association of Frederick County provides the Healthy Families Frederick program, designed to support and provide guidance and information for first time parents through quality, strength-based, family-centered services. With over 300 families served in the past 11 years and currently serving 20 Spanish-speaking families, there is no better evidence of the impact Healthy Families Frederick has on its families than the personal stories of parents who have been able to provide their children with a healthy, safe start in life.
“I’ve been a part of Healthy Families since July of 2019. I was a new mom back then, and I was scared,” explained Raena, a client of Healthy Families Frederick. “Healthy Families means so much to me, being a single mother. I didn’t want to make any mistakes, but as we all know that’s impossible not to make mistakes. I wanted to be the best parent I could be for my daughter.”
Healthy Families Frederick is an evidence-based program designed to support first-time parents of newborns in Frederick County through our home visitation program. We enroll families prenatally or within three months of birth. Once enrolled, we offer voluntary services at no cost to families until the child’s fifth birthday or upon entering Kindergarten.
If home visiting services are recommended, the Healthy Families Family Support Specialist will work with families long-term, establishing trusting relationships with at-risk families by initiating and maintaining regular contact. At times with at-risk families, Family Support Specialists may be one of the only supportive connections families have.
“The Home Visitor is very respectful in all the discussions we have; she listens to my opinion and she is interested and sincere giving me advice in all the issues me and my son have,” one client shared. “She gives me all the information, but always says ‘As mom, it’s your decision!’”
Providing appropriate modeling techniques and education surrounding healthy childhood growth and development, Family Support Specialists assist in strengthening parent-child interaction, leading to empowered and resilient families.
“The staff are amazing. They’re supportive and full of resources. If you need someone to just talk to about what’s going on in life that’s not going your way at the moment or you’re scared or some other stresses are happening, they have resources,” continued Raena. “If there’s anything that you need that you are lacking in, whether it’s understanding, or you need diapers and wipes and you’re struggling with things like that because you’re a single parent or you’re a new parent and new to all of this, they always have something to help you get to where you need to be. They are always encouraging and pushing you to be the best version of yourself you can be for your kids.”
The impact the Healthy Families program has in the community speaks for itself in the stories of our families and transformations in the community. Communities that provide access to the Healthy Families program see children become healthier and perform better in school, parents become more self-sufficient, and costs measurably decline. The program also improves access to health care, helping parents obtain insurance coverage and establish a medical care routine.1
For those who are interested in learning more about MHA’s Healthy Families Frederick program, becoming a Healthy Families participant, or for information on referring a new or prenatal mom to the program, visit www.fcmha.org/how-we-help/healthy-families.
1 Healthy Families America, www.healthyfamiliesamerica.org