Thirty years ago, a group of concerned people from Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) and other organizations sat around a table to discuss the needs of Prescott’s most vulnerable population – its children. They explored ways they could offer support to parents so that they can give their children the best possible start in life. The grassroots effort took hold and the Family Resource Center (FRC) at Yavapai Regional Medical Center was born. The program has grown exponentially over the years, finding new ways to meet the changing needs of our families.
This year, the FRC celebrates its 30th anniversary and continues to make a difference in the lives of young families through three successful programs. Each of the programs is free of charge to families in our community.
“Families giving birth back in 1989 needed support and education. They couldn’t Google questions like we can today,” said Family Resource Center Director David Barko. “Yavapai Regional Medical Center came forward with First Steps, which is still in existence today. Specially trained volunteers provide information to every family giving birth at YRMC. They discuss important topics like SIDS prevention and the signs of postpartum depression. We assess what each individual family might need and offer social and emotional support as well.”
One-week and three-month follow-up calls are also part of the family resources program.
The early efforts of the Family Resource Center brought to light another critical need in Yavapai County – home visits for families to provide additional support and to learn more about early childhood and parenthood. Healthy Families, which is now a nationally recognized program operating in 38 states, was developed at YRMC. The focus of the program is strength and empowerment.
“Healthy Families is one of the top evidence-based home visit programs in the nation. It works,” said Barko. “We use the most up-to-date early childhood development knowledge to support our parents. They, in turn, support their children and give them the best start in life as they can. We know from research and science that the first three to five years of life are the most critical. Every experience, interaction, feeling and relationship a child has during these years literally affects the brain’s development. They set the stage for the rest of the child’s life – how they perceive everything, what kind of relationships they enter into, how they cope with stress, learn to trust, or not. The list goes on.”
Healthy Families visits occur once a week for the first six to 12 months, then every other week. Home visits can continue for as long as five years. The program is customized to meet the needs of each family. Medical health, safe sleep, developmental milestones, well checks, immunizations and childproofing the home are among the information shared with the families. A connection to community services is also part of the program.
Just as important, parents gain a listening ear and a mentor who can help them through tough times they may be experiencing. Healthy Families staff are trained in communication strategies that help remove the stigma associated with postpartum depression, anxiety, substance and alcohol abuse, financial or relationship issues and other life stressors.
The Healthy Families program also offers several holiday-themed social events each year where families can get together, make friends and celebrate what it means to be a family.
Car Seat Safety Program
Continuing to identify needs and find solutions, the Family Resource Center now offers car seat safety checks, conducted by nationally certified technicians. Partnering with other organizations, the safety checks are usually held at the Family Resource Center. They are also offered at community events and health expos throughout the year. As with the other programs through the FRC, the car seat safety checks are free of charge. Educating caregivers – or anyone who transports children – continues to be the priority. In 2018, approximately 90 percent of the seats and children that FRC saw arrived in an unsafe situation or configuration.
– The FRC First Steps volunteers visited all of the families who gave birth at YRMC.
– The Healthy Families program served 76 families, which includes 167 children.
– The Car Seat Safety program distributed 216 car seats and conducted 265 safety checks.
But the numbers only tell part of the story.
Barko notes that even the briefest connection can often lead to unexpected opportunities to help a family. He recalls a car seat check with a grandmother who wanted to make sure she was transporting her grandchildren safely.
“We ended up talking for an hour,” said Barko. “She opened up and shared with me that her daughter was pregnant and experiencing depression. I was able to reassure her and gave her some information so that she could connect with valuable community resources.”
Barko also tells about a mother with two children under the age of six. They were in the YRMC emergency room after a car accident and couldn’t return home because the car seats were destroyed. In addition to new car seats, the Family Resource Center was able to offer emotional support and resources for counseling to help the family cope after such a traumatic event.
At 30 years and counting, the Family Resource Center truly embodies YRMC’s mission.
“In some organizations, the mission is just a poster on the wall,” said Barko, “but at YRMC, those values are lived day to day. If I were to describe our team, the words that come to mind are empathy, heart and spirit. Our goal is that with every visit, every connection, we keep another child safe and help with their start in life.”
For more information on the Family Resource Center, contact David Barko at 928-771-5651 or firstname.lastname@example.org. QCBN
By Joanne Mack Robertson
Joanne Mack Robertson is freelance writer and video producer. She and her husband, Jeff, are the creative energy behind Big Picture Video Production in Prescott and Tucson.