LANE COUNTY, Ore. (KMTR) -- A program helping first-time parents in Lane County, the Healthy Start Healthy Families program is getting national recognition for its positive results reducing child abuse and neglect.
Healthy Start Healthy Families (HSHF) is a voluntary program for around 150 first-time Lane County families. The program provides free home visits from parental experts to try to reduce stress on at-risk families. Ultimately, the goal is to help prevent child abuse and neglect.
The program was just audited on a national level by Prevent Child Abuse America. As a result, it was ranked as one of the best in the nation.
Lane County averages about 5,000 child abuse and neglect reports a year, about 39% higher than the state average.
Healthy Start’s program managers say many times abuse occurs when parents get stressed over things like money, friends, family or parenting.
The home visits are designed help reduce that stress, giving families tools and tips to parent and stay together.
“It makes a difference in their lives and increases their protective factors and increases the nurturing environment in the home,” says Nancy Bischofs, program director for the Lane County Healthy Start Healthy Families program.
“This is a really unique opportunity for them to have an expert, a parenting support person who can come in and really be their advocate and lead them, and guide them in a way that's helpful for the child in showing positive parenting techniques,” says Joanna Morales, a family support work for the Lane County HSHF program.
A mom who has received help from the program, Nicole Reid says it has helped her tremendously with her nearly 8-month-old daughter Madalynn. Through the program, Nicole has received parenting supplies and materials, information on how Madalynn should be developing and tips on how to be a mom.
“I mean, they've helped me so much, giving me books and clothes and even the receipts if they (items) weren't big enough or too small. I could take them back and exchange them. I mean Healthy Start is an amazing program. I mean every time I get asked what they could do to be better, I don't give them an answer because I don't think there could be anything better,” says Reid.
Healthy Start Healthy Families will continue to work with Nicole until Madalynn turns three. There are seven home visiting specialists in Lane County. The program is completely voluntary and free to use.
Program managers say families involved in Healthy Start Healthy Families are two-and-a-half times less likely to abuse or neglect their children. For more information on the program, click the following link: http://cms.oregon.gov/OCCF/hso/Pages/index.aspx.