Editor’s note: This is part of the series for the United Way of Northern New Mexico Behavioral Health(y) Community Initiative.
Ask any parent you meet, and they will all agree: parenting is one of the most rewarding and challenging relationships in life. Every child is different, and every stage in life is different.
There are many changes and adjustments that occur in the family dynamic during pregnancy and the first three years of the child’s life. Regular home visits from a supportive, highly trained home visitor alleviates many of the stressors associated with early childhood. Decreasing stressors in young families results in better-formed relationships, families with fewer risks, and stronger communities.
First Born Program ® of Los Alamos (FBPLA) home visitors provide parents and primary caregivers with education and support to encourage the growth and development of babies and young children in positive, nurturing families. Using home visitors hired from within our community, FBPLA provides free, confidential home visitation services to all families in Los Alamos County.
Services may be requested at any time during pregnancy, at the birth of the baby, or until the baby is two months of age, and continue until the child is three years of age (36 months). Through regular home visits, families identify their personal goals and learn to build upon their strengths, recognize challenges and opportunities for growth, increase school readiness, and establish healthy relationships whose effects will last a lifetime.
Any time a new member is added to a family, the transition is difficult, especially when the new member is an infant. As one mother put it, “Having a baby in the house is like being held hostage – you’re sleep deprived, you’re being screamed at in language you’re only beginning to understand about someone else’s needs, you’re covered in someone else’s bodily fluids, personal hygiene is a luxury, and you spend a large portion of your time only partially clothed and shuffling from room to room.”
Many caregivers, during this time, feel that either they are doing something wrong, or that there is something wrong with their child, and they often feel like they are completely isolated in their struggles.
Families who participate in FBPLA home visiting services are assigned a supportive, unbiased, highly-trained home visitor who meets with the family weekly or as requested, and they work to build relationship with the family in order to meet the family’s needs and help normalize common parenting and early childhood issues.
In addition to providing the research-based First Born Curriculum, home visitors are trained in the Circle of Security-Parenting curriculum and provide this resource to parents.
You may be wondering, “What about families who struggle with basic needs, domestic violence, mental health, and other issues?” As part of the relationship-building process, home visitors spend a large portion of the home visit listening to families’ needs and empowering families through providing service referrals for community resources that can meet those needs.
Home visitors also conduct screenings to look for intimate partner violence, mental/ behavioral health disorders, and childhood developmental delays. When a need or risk is assessed, the family is referred to the appropriate service provider.
Because parenting can be such an isolating endeavor, FBPLA provides a Perinatal Support Group for First Born families that is led by a licensed mental health therapist. The group is completely confidential and explores wide-ranging topics such as perinatal mood disorders, self-care, body issues, and strengthening relationships between caregivers.
By taking a strengths-based approach to parenting and creating enduring relationships with and among families, FBPLA works to improve the mental health outlook within Los Alamos and the families who live here.
For more information visit www.firstbornla.org, and to inquire about services, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505.661.4810.
About First Born Program:
First Born Program of Los Alamos is a nonprofit organization that is modeled on and uses The First Born® Program curriculum, which was established in l997 in Grant County, New Mexico by Vicki Johnson and has been supported by the LANL Foundation and New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department and endorsed by the RAND Corporation. At the program’s core is the conviction that a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby are not only critical to the immediate well-being of mother and child but are also integral to the long-term health and success of the family and community.