Sometimes first-time parents need extra support to create the best start for their children. That’s where The Villages’ Healthy Families program plays a role. This program is part of Healthy Families Indiana, a statewide initiative to promote healthy families and children through a variety of services. Participation is voluntary and support from our Healthy Families team can begin during pregnancy or within three months after the child’s birth. Parents are encouraged to remain in the program and receive support services for up to three years.
Families receive weekly visits by a Villages Family Support Worker who are focused on parent-child interaction. The program also includes introduction and connection to a network of other services to help their child have the best beginning possible. Currently, our team of Family Support Workers serve 425 families in central Indiana and 908 families in total, statewide.
Nancy Gwin, assistant program director of The Villages Healthy Families, shares more about this important program.
What is the most important thing you want to share about participants in the Healthy Families program?
The only thing that separates these families from other families is a dollar amount. They want their children to be the best they can be. It’s amazing to watch the bond that our Family Support Workers share with our families as they watch parents become the heroes in their child’s life.
What is one of the biggest challenges facing many of these families?
If there are financial struggles, it often leads to depression. When families have different stressors they are trying to address or overcome, it’s hard to know how to address those things. Family Support Workers try very hard to work with our participants to break the cycle of poverty. Some of it is through goal setting to achieve confidence and raise self-esteem. We remind parents that they are doing a great job and as long as they stay committed to being there for their child by simply showing love and nurturing … that is a great start. Our hope is to give families the tools they need so they are stronger when they leave the program.
What do you want to share about your staff?
We deal with burnout all the time. We often handle difficult situations with families in the program and it’s hard on the team. They are the unsung heroes and often don’t get the recognition they deserve. It’s the most difficult job, but so rewarding.
In addition to donating items to Healthy Families, what more can be done to support the program?
We need advocacy on a state and national level. The Healthy Families program is part of a national model. Programs like this help our communities be healthy and strong. If we don’t speak out in support of these programs and about their impact, they will go away. We are open to lawmakers joining us for home visits to learn more.
Donate Items to Healthy Families: Essential items for newborns, including diapers, onesies and baby shampoo. Email Nancy Gwin at NGwin@villages.org to donate.