CHVC releases “What is Home Visiting?”

The Colorado Home Visiting Coalition just released an animated explainer video: “What is home visiting?” The video is a short introduction to home visiting and answers some of the most common questions about these essential programs. Watch the video to learn what home visiting is and what it helps create. Learn more about Colorado’s home visiting programs

Making a plan for progress

Nineteen and pregnant, Amanda had a lot on her plate, so she didn’t need any aggravation– but that’s just what she was getting. Her boyfriend, the father of her unborn child, got louder, wanting to argue, as he stood aggressively over Amanda who was sitting at the kitchen table. That’s when Valerie stepped in.

Valerie Carberry, a nurse home visitor with Nurse- Family Partnership® (NFP), had been sitting with Amanda, offering advice for a healthy pregnancy, when the tirade began. Until now, Valerie had only seen his warm and engaging side – the side that had quickly charmed her young client and led to a pregnancy just five months later.

Valerie looked straight at the young man and asked him to step outside. “You’re out of line,” she said firmly before issuing a threat of her own: if he didn’t calm down, she would call the police. While he stewed, Valerie, cell phone in hand, turned her attention to Amanda. “Do you want me to call 9-1-1?”

“No,” replied Amanda, though she looked uncertain. Valerie was not content to leave matters where they stood. “He’s just cooling off because I’m here,” she said. “You have got to have a safety plan,” she added, handing her phone numbers for women’s shelters in this part of Colorado. Amanda jotted them down and tucked the list away. “I walked out of that visit going, ‘Oh my,’” Valerie would recall later. “But at least we had something in place.”

Amanda did not flee that day, but the wheels in her head had begun to turn—perhaps she could create a brand new life for herself and her unborn child, she thought to herself.

In the three months since her initial meeting with Valerie, Amanda had shared the most intimate details of her family history: her mother’s periodic bouts with homelessness, how she herself had ended up living in her car after her father and stepmother were divorced, a family tree with step- siblings and half-siblings and other relationships almost too complicated to sort out. And then there were the troubling reports about her boyfriend’s behavior. Not only did he regularly chastise Amanda about gaining weight, he made fun of her acne, which flared up due to stress. And he called her names.

These ongoing revelations left Valerie feeling a bit shell- shocked—but she was more than prepared. Though new to NFP, Valerie was an experienced public health nurse, and the NFP program provided her with an arsenal of proven materials to use throughout a carefully designed course   of action. She began by shoring up her client’s self-esteem

just as a builder would reinforce a foundation before doing anything else.

Amanda, who had been concerned that she wouldn’t be a good mother due to her own troubled background, slowly began to recognize the direct correlation between excellent prenatal care and successful parenting. She was diligent about her medical appointments, diet and health. “I stopped dying my hair and tanning. I didn’t even microwave when I was pregnant!” Amanda says now, looking back. Valerie complimented Amanda on every positive step, and continually reminded her that these were, in fact, the very first steps in becoming a good mother.

Amanda continued to endure stress in her relationship—at one point she fled to her mother’s home in Florida, only to return to her boyfriend when he “sweet-talked” her into coming home—but then she delivered a healthy baby boy. Amanda’s already strong maternal instincts were further reinforced by Valerie, who complimented Amanda when little Nolan gained weight. One of the highlights of their visits was weighing the little boy on the scale Valerie brought along with her. Four ounces equaled victory, and clearly, Nolan was thriving under Amanda’s care. “She took to it like a duck to water,” Valerie says. “I was just so motivated and high on being a mom,” says Amanda. “It’s like I was born to be a mom.”

By the time Nolan was six weeks old, however, Amanda began to “crash and burn,” recalls Valerie, who saw the signs of post-partum depression during her visits. Always fastidious about her housecleaning, Amanda would let the dishes pile   up in the sink. The baby’s father wasn’t helping out much, and a new cycle of violence had begun.

When Nolan was three months old, Amanda says her boyfriend choked her as he held her over their son’s crib. “I couldn’t help but think how this would have scarred him for life if he had been five years old and could remember it,” says Amanda. It was finally time to put into effect the flight plan she had developed with Valerie all those months ago.

Scared but determined, Amanda called the police, who arrested her partner. By the time he made bail and returned to their apartment, Amanda had relocated to a shelter with her son. “Before, I remember always thinking I was going to be stuck,” says Amanda. “But it wasn’t just me now. I knew I could do it—but I didn’t know how.”

Always nearby to encourage her client and affirm that she had done exactly the right thing was Valerie, who continued to meet with Amanda in the shelter. Through the resources made available to her there, Amanda was able to enroll in college and move into her own apartment. She then she graduated with an Associate Degree and a plan to study speech therapy when Nolan is a little older. Nolan’s father provides financial support and visits with him regularly, but Amanda is through with him romantically and is currently dating a man who, as she puts it, “would rather die than lay a hand on me.”

Today, the most challenging male in her life is little Nolan, a bright and rambunctious boy who is living his version of the Terrible Twos. “I thought I was going to get away clean with a really even-tempered baby,” laughs Amanda. She watches instructional videos about child behavior and has even been known to throw a tantrum to mimic Nolan’s own, after reading about this technique. “It really works!” she says. Of course, Valerie is still there to help. While on a recent outing with Nolan and Valerie, Amanda watched in awe as Valerie demonstrated how to keep the blue-eyed boy engaged—and calm—in a busy public setting.

“The program is awesome,” says Amanda, who graduated from NFP when Nolan turned two. “I don’t think I would have left Nolan’s father if Valerie hadn’t told me that what he was doing was wrong. She was that one voice. That’s all I needed. She never made it sound like I couldn’t do it. She used to tell me all the time I was a survivor. She really believed in me.”

Valerie tears up when told of Amanda’s heart-felt expression of gratitude, as if she had never quite realized the impact she’s had on her former client. “She did all the work,” Valerie replies modestly. “She just needed the consistency of someone saying, ‘You can do it’. ”

This Nurse-Family Partnership program is implemented through the Jefferson County Department of Health & Environment in Golden, Colorado.

In partnership with the national Nurse-Family Partnership office, Invest in Kids is responsible for program development, clinical consultation and general support for agencies delivering NFP in Colorado.

Learning together to create stronger communities

The story below comes from a HIPPY home visitor in Pueblo.

HIPPY is so many different things to many different people. It can be a savior for a child’s education and an outlet for a parent to share their concerns for not only their child but possibly themselves.

I am going to talk about a family that I have had for three terms in the HIPPY program and has made big strides in her child’s education as well as her own personal life. This particular parent was having trouble with their child being able to identify different shapes. She has had an older child in the program and expressed the concern that with her older child she never had an issue with shapes, colors, or numbers. I reassured her that every child is different and especially with younger siblings.

She felt better and continued to work with her son on all of the Year 1 activities. Every week I made sure to ask about how their week has gone, not just with the program but in their personal life as well. As we came near the holidays this year I could see her fear easing about the progress her son was making with his shapes. He was successfully able to identify all of his HIPPY shapes. The mom was so excited she actually texted me to let me know how he was doing.

Fast forward to this week and she was again worried about his progress. She was afraid he was not learning his numbers as he should. However, rather than getting upset or becoming more anxious, she had the tools and support to chart a different path. She told me all the ways she was helping him to work on it. She also recognized that when she would get anxious it was counter productive, saying that when she would stress about his work he seemed to be able to sense her frustration, not with him but with herself.

During our home visit continued she mapped out her plan to get him back on track. As I sat and listened to her explain her plan and how she gushed over all of his progress, I couldn’t help but be thankful that I’m part of such an amazing program that not only helps out the children in our community but also our parents.

I feel as though my part in the HIPPY program has made me feel incredibly grateful to be a part of something so amazing. I have met so many amazing parents, some of which have taught me how to be a better parent and educator to my own children.

Two Generation Impact in Pueblo

The two generation impact of home visiting can be life changing.

Below is a success story shared with us from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pueblo Parents as Teachers program.

For nearly two years our home visitor has worked to engage and support a local family. The family entered the program as a referral from the Child Welfare Department of Pueblo County Department of Human Services (DHS). At the time of the referral, the family was living in a shed. A local school had made a report to Pueblo DHS because the family’s older boy was going to school in soiled clothing and had poor hygiene. The Case Worker from DHS, sent in the referral to our program because after receiving utilities assistance from DHS the family had refusing to let the caseworker back into their home. The Case Worker made a referral for this family because they had one child that was eligible for Parents as Teachers  (PAT) services.

After rejecting DHS, the family allowed the Parents as Teachers home visitor into their home and enrolled their child into PAT. Over the last two years our home visitor has become a trusted resource for the family.  Rather than pushing the home visitor away, the family has welcomed her, eagerly engaging in home visiting activities to build their child’s growth and development.

The family will be leaving the program this month, as their child has successfully completed Parents as Teachers.  During their participation, the youngest child has met all of his milestones and is developing on target and ready for preschool. The oldest child that was the cause for the initial referral from DHS, has also improved in his attitude and school performance. Along the way during their involvement with PAT, the home visitor has given these parents, parenting tips and skills to help with the discipline and behavior of all their children.

The impact goes beyond the children as the mother has decided to pursue her High School Diploma due to the encouragement of her home visitor. This mother told her home visitor that this has always been her dream and she never thought she would achieve it. With the support and guidance of her Parents as Teachers home visitor she will accomplish this dream.

Helping parents advocate for themselves

Losing a job is always a shock. For many of the parents in our programs it can be catastrophic. In these moments, the support parents receive from their home visitors is invaluable.

Lupe* has been a part of the Growing Home Parents as Teachers program for two years. She was recently fired without being given any reason, and when she asked about her final check her supervisor said it would be mailed. However, after three weeks of checking her mail continuously, nothing arrived.

Distraught, she called her Parents as Teachers home visitor asking for advice. Her home visitor suggested contacting the owner (rather than her supervisor) and helped her prepare mentally for the conversation. Talking to the owner paid off – literally – as the next time the home visitor saw Lupe she had her final check in hand.

Being able to work with a trusted ally, like her home visitor, gave Lupe the confidence to to stand up for her rights in a difficult situation. Home visiting and the relationships it creates improve the lives of families in myriad ways.

*(Name changed)

Supporting the whole family

In December, 2018, one of Clayton Early Learning‘s home visitors was assigned a homeless family that came to the HIPPY program from Clayton’s Community Services team. Her first visit with the family was in a very small one room trailer that was given to them by a family member until the family’s financial circumstances improved. The mother had lost her job and CCAP, and her husband had left the family. 

Clayton Early Learning

Despite the many difficulties she was facing, the parent was incredibly kind and gracious during every visit. The mother’s number one goal was to get all three of her children, who were all enrolled in HIPPY, into a full time early childhood education program so that she could go back to work. With guidance and support from her home visitor, the mother was able to get her CCAP benefits restored and register the children in a full time early childhood education program successfully. This enabled the mother to her previous employment. 

The family benefited from referrals that the home visitor was able to suggest; so that over time the family accessed a food pantry and mental health services. She was able to benefit from mental health services for herself and one of her children.  

During the holidays Clayton was able to give each member of the family a gift from our community collaborations. The family was overjoyed and appreciative, since the parent was not able to afford any Christmas gifts for her children. Though the family was not in our program for long, they received what they needed during a time when there were not other resources available to them. 

On her last visit this mother said to her home visitor:

“I couldn’t have done any of this without you.”