“Is he supposed to sound like that?”
“Look at him roll to his stomach!! So fast. Is that genius?”
“He’s PLAYING with his POOP.”
“It’s applesauce. I was getting the laundry.”
“WHAT DO I DO?”
“They love this game!”
“Have you seen my shoes?”
“Omg, what a good idea.”
“Thanks for the laundry detergent!”
These are all things I’ve said to my Parent Educator. We’ve been participants in Birth to Five‘s Parents as Educators program since Big A was six months old. That means we’ve had thirty-three extraordinarily helpful, kind, insightful, and fun monthly home visits.
Birth to Five’s vision is to proactively inspire, educate, and prepare families. This is accomplished in a variety of ways: playgroups, personalized home visits, developmental and health screenings, community resource networking, Supporting Care Providers (visiting childcare providers monthly for group activities/screenings) and group events. Best of all? All of these resources are free.
Birth to Five: Local Bragging Rights
Thirty years ago, Vickie DeMao and Dr. Paul Rider (who continue to be active on the Advisory Board), noticed children weren’t prepared for kindergarten. They wrote the first grant for a Parents As Teachers Program and our local Birth To Five organization was formed. Later, they applied for the Healthy Families Federal Grant-and got it.
It is extremely unusual to have both the Parents As Teachers and Healthy Families Programs. In fact, Wayne County is the only county in Indiana with both programs. That means that the Wayne County Birth To Five can guarantee home visits to every caregiver that contacts the organization. If a family doesn’t qualify for Healthy Families then they will qualify for Parents As Teachers. Either way, every family is getting resources and screenings.
A New Director
In February, Linda Irwin became Birth to Five’s Executive Director (whom I can totally vouch for as she used to be my Parent Educator). Linda is the first Executive Director that has also served as a Parent Educator. This gives Linda a unique and empathetic “ground floor” view of Birth to Five and the families the organization serves. Linda truly understands her staff-she was in their vocational shoes for nearly a decade.
Linda is excited about Birth to Five’s trajectory. “It feels like we’re on a whirlwind,” she states. Linda credits dedicated staff, an interested community, and an involved board for service expansions and collaborations.
Birth to Five’s Gains
Birth to Five has gone from hosting two to four playgroups a week. A collaboration with Cope Environmental Center brought the weekly playgroup total to five. This was made possible by the hiring of a new Parent Educator (going from two to three employees). As Linda says,
We’re on the upswing now. A decade ago we got a large grant and we were able to serve 300 families. When the grant money was gone, services were reduced. Collaborating with other agencies (like Forward Wayne County, Reid Health, Drug Free Wayne County, United Way of Whitewater Valley, and the Wayne County Foundation) are providing funding and other resources to build [Birth to Five] back up.
The hard work of Birth to Five and the other agencies are evident. Just look at these upcoming activities!
Birth to Five (with other organizations) offers Parent Cafes. These are interactive parent groups that discuss protective factors. The last Cafe covered ways to combat holiday stress. Caregivers broke up into different groups to brainstorm coping skills. The group ended with participants writing themselves Christmas cards detailing the ways they could keep themselves sane. Reid mailed these cards the next week. The Parent Cafes can cover all kinds of subjects, needs, and resources: new parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, parents of children with special needs, etc.
Letters to Santa at the Old Fashioned Christmas Festival in the Depot District
Come see us at The Old Fashioned Christmas Festival, December 3rd, 10th, and 17th! We’ll have a booth where you and yours can write letters to Santa.
Birth to Five will also have a beautifully decorated tree (that you can win in an auction!) at the Richmond Depot.
Come to the Martha Dwyer Center on December 6th at 6:30. There, parents can sip on different kinds of fancy coffee while kids enjoy sensory activities. One of the activities will be playing with shaving cream (get it?).
Every month Birth to Five offers a group event. In an attempt to serve all families, times vary. Sometimes the group events are in the evening. Some events, like the January block building activity, are during playgroup.
Are small children in your family? Enroll them in Birth To Five! Should all children be adequately prepared for kindergarten? Do all families deserve the resources to navigate the first five years of life? If you answered affirmatively-sounds like you’d be a good fit with Birth to Five. Birth to Five needs funding and volunteers to continue to provide their wonderful services. Please visit mybirthtofive.org to donate your time and money to a worthwhile cause.
I am so thankful for the support and knowledge that Birth to Five has provided my family. Share this article to spread awareness about all that Birth to Five offers.
Happy supported parenting!