Staff and Board Members at FBLA’s recent retreat, from left, Ruth Burns, Home Visitor; Gauri Prasad, Lead Home Visitor; Euphrasia Romero, Board member; Ronda Harmon, Secretary; Ellen Specter, Executive Director; Karen Holmes, President; Sara Scott, Vice President, Susan Gisler, Board member; and Judith Ramirez, Treasurer. (not pictured, Tara Adams, Board member). Courtesy/FBLA
By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
First born babies in Los Alamos are one lucky bunch. They are eligible for the First Born Program of Los Alamos (FBPLA).
FBPLA is a nonprofit organization that provides parents and primary caregivers with education and support to encourage normal growth and development of happy, healthy babies in positive, nurturing families, Executive Director Ellen Specter said. All services are free.
“We provide free home visitation services to all families in Los Alamos County,” Specter said. “Families can request services at any time during pregnancy, at the birth of the baby, or until the baby is two months of age, and can continue until the child is three years old or until the family no longer needs our services.”
Clients range in age from teenagers to parents having a first child in their 30s, 40s or older, Specter said. To qualify for the program only one parent need be a first time parent.
The program curricula provides a comprehensive set of topics that families learn as well as specific tools, activities, and educational materials that home visitors can use to address them. The flexible and inclusive curricula can be adapted to each family’s needs. The once a week visit from a trained home visitor is at the core of the program, Specter said. First Born also has classes and get-togethers for participating families. They partner with the local libraries, Family Strengths Network, Pajarito Environmental Education Center and other Los Alamos entities to expand their programming.
“The home visits are relationship based and driven by the families’ goals,” Specter said. “It’s meant for parents to figure out, with guidance, what’s best for their families.”
Age of parents is not the only diversity element at FBPLA.
“We currently have clients who speak more than 15 languages,” Specter said. “We have staff members who speak Hindi, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese and Hebrew among others.”
The program prides itself on “stigma busting”, Specter said.
“Any topic you want to explore is on the table,” she said. “We’re completely confidential and HIPAA compliant.
FBPLA often refers clients to other services and programs that may be useful to them.
First Born is growing due to expanded funding from the state’s Early Childhood Education and Care Dept. The program also receives generous support from the Delle Foundation, Specter said.
“We’ve expanded from being contracted for 60 families to 80, Specter said. “We’re currently expanding physically as well. We now have room to hold classes and programs at our facility.”
It’s exciting to be able to offer in-house classes,” Specter said. “We can bring families together with other families. The socialization is important for both adults and babies, post-pandemic.”
FBPLA has a team of eight, including five home visitors, a lactation councilor, an administrative person and the executive director, Specter said.
The addition of a lactation specialist has allowed the program to expand its services in this area, Specter said.
“In addition to supporting families immediately postpartum, we provide support for moms who want to keep breastfeeding when they go back to work,” Specter said.
“We also provide help with the transition to solid food and with combining breastfeeding with formula. If parents want to use exclusively formula, we can provide help with that, too.”
“Our staff is awesome,” Spector said.
“Our staff members have a wide variety of skills, including infant massage and training in Circle of Security, a program that encourages bonding and attachment and much more.”
Specter said the FBPLA Board of Directors also is awesome. Recently, the Board and staff held a retreat to update its strategic plan and mission statement.
“I have seen the difference First Born is making in the lives of new parents and families,” Board President Karen Holmes said. “It’s an honor to be working with the Board to help our families develop even closer connections with their babies. First Born is providing so many great resources and connections to our families to really foster the parent-child relationship. As a Board member, I find myself learning parenting tips from the program, too, and in that sense First Born has been a double blessing for me.
First Born is all about fostering a strong parent-child relationship and the staff and home visitors go above and beyond to support families in the community, she said.
“From teaching infant massage to cultural cooking classes and library activities, the program helps new parents build so many great connections during these early years so they don’t have to feel alone, even if they don’t have family close by,” Holmes said. “I remember being a new parent and struggling to find community and support. The First Born Program played a huge role in helping me find connections and learn about myself as a mom. On the Board, I get to be behind the scenes now and ensure a similar experience for other new parents. I love this organization and it’s our hope that, someday, every new parent in Los Alamos can be part of First Born.”
Board Member Sara Scott agreed. “We are so fortunate to have this program,” she said. “It has such a positive impact on families and connectivity in our community. First Born is a great resource supporting a healthy Los Alamos.”
To learn more or donate to FBPLA, visit firstbornla.org. Those interested in the program can self-refer on the website. Doctors can refer patients to the program.
FBPLA clients at the Baby Bugs Early Literacy Program at Mesa Public Library. FBPLA held the event in collaboration with the library. Courtesy/FBLA