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Program that helps parents and families loses funding from Congress

Many parents need a little help every now and then. One local program does just that, but the government did not renew its funding.

Laura Warner and her son Chris have been a part of the “Parents as Teachers” program for close to three years. It helps Laura make connections in the community and get help for Chris’s speech delay.

“By August of last year, I could count how many word he had, he had about 25 words,” Laura Warner said. “And, as you can hear now, he talks nonstop. Like off the charts.”

The “Parents as Teachers” program takes place in the home. It is funded by the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visitation Act. It allows child specialists to help parents with their children whether they have a disability or just need the extra parental support. Marci Stucki, a child development specialist, visits Laura and Chris twice a month.

“One of the best things that I’ve seen is a lot of times these moms just need to someone to say, you’re okay, you’re doing good,” Stucki said.

Warner is thankful for all that Stucki does.

“We know we can text Marci and she’ll bring us all kinds of information,” Warner said. “Or sleeping’s going atrocious right now. Is that normal? What can we do?”

The specialists bring in developmental centered activities, such as making Play-Doh. They also do health, hearing and vision screenings to make sure the child is on track.

“We also help parents with issues like guidance and discipline,” Holly Whitworth, Parents as Teachers Program Manager, said. “Things like routines and transitions for their child. Kindergarten readiness.”

More than 50 children are served in Bonneville County. However, the program could come to an end. Funds were not re-authorized by Congress in September. This program is funded through 2019, but others are not.

“For some families that are in our program, it may be the only support that they have,” Whitworth said.

There is evidence that programs such as this prevent children from going down a dark path in the future.

“I’m thinking of a few instances where I’ve gone into a home and it’s been a home where it’s obvious that children are abused or neglected or it’s just not a ver clean or safe environment for the child,” Daniel Clark, Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney, said. “And it certainly tugs at your heart strings when that happens. And if there’s efforts to be made to assist those parents or those children with that environment, I think we’re all better off for it.”

Those who work in the program are worried about their clients if the funding ends.

“We may not have the time to teach them those skills of being self-sufficient and being able to solve their own problems,” Stucki said. “And reflect and to think about parenting in a more positive way.”

Warner says this program has benefited her family more than any other.

“As parents we all need support,” Warner said. “And we just need more of it, positive support in our lives that we can’t get from other places and that’s Parents as Teachers for us.”

If you have any questions or concerns, or if you are interested in the program, contact the Eastern Idaho Public Health Department at 208-522-0310.

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