Being a first-time parent can be a scary ride, especially if family and close friends are not on the scene to help out, as is the case for many Los Alamos first-timers.
Enter the First Born Program of Los Alamos. First Born is a unique home visiting program designed to meet the needs of first-time families. Services may begin at any time during pregnancy or up to two months after the birth and may continue until the child is 36 months. Services are free, voluntary and offered regardless of income.
Ellen Be-Naim recently took the helm at the First Born Program of Los Alamos as its program manager. Ben-Naim has lived in Los Alamos since 1996 and has been active in the community both professionally and as a volunteer. She is vice president of the Los Alamos School Board. Prior to this, she served as program coordinator for JJAB, the Lo Alamos Juvenile Justice Board for four years. Ben-Naim has held a number of positions, paid and volunteer, in local service and education institutions.
She received a Master of Arts in Jewish Education and Jewish Communal Service from Brandeis University and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University.
“It’s going great,” Ben-Naim said. “I love everyone who’s involved. We have a great board and a great staff.”
Ben-Naim supervises a staff of four home visitors and has a family she visits as well. Weekly or bi-weekly home visits are the heart of the First Born Program, Ben-Naim said.
“Home visitors accompany the families on their journey,” she said. “They’re non-judgmental. Empathy is a big part of the program. There’s a lot of power in modeling empathy.”
The program is evidence-based, goal-oriented and curriculum focused, Ben-Naim said.
“We ask families what they want from the program,” she said.
Home visitors come from a variety of health-care and education backgrounds. They do regular screenings for developmental milestones and watch for problems such as post partum depression. They make referrals when they are needed, Ben-Naim said. All services are confidential.
“The State of New Mexico is a leader in the support of home visiting for babies and new families,” Ben-Naim said. “Home visiting has bi-partisan support because legislators recognize its power in overcoming poor outcomes for children.”
The First Born Program (FBP) was established in l997 in Grant County through a comprehensive community-based collaborative process. The program’s central office is at Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe. There are FBP sites in 18 New Mexico counties. FBP has been ongoing in Los Alamos for the past four years.
Clients come to FBP in a variety of ways, including self referral. The Los Alamos office is serving 65 families. Visit firstbornla.org or call 505.661.4810, to learn more.