Special to The Guardian
By Mona Gil De Gibaja
Healthy Start of North Central Florida is now offering a free parenting program in Alachua, Bradford and Putnam counties.
It is called the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting, or MIECHV, program and it will offer the following:
* Information on your child’s development.
* One-on-one parenting support.
* A connection with other parents and resources
* Information on developmental delays and/or health issues.
* Books and educational toys for your child.
Also, parents can earn free rewards, such as diapers and wipes, by participating in the program.
The MIECHV program is based on successful parenting programs that have been shown to keep children safe, healthy and ready to succeed in school.
So, why does MIECHV work?
A parent is the child’s first and most important teacher. In the first few years, children learn more than any other time in life. Helping your child learn and grow is a big job. It is exciting, but parenting can be tough. Home visiting programs such as MIECHV give families the support they need.
Through the MIECHV program, parent educators will offer support by answering questions, teaching strategies and helping to gain confidence. The parent educator is a partner who works with the parent to offer support as the child grows up.
The program is not just for parents. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and other caregivers raising a child from birth to 12 months old can enroll and participate until the child is 3 years old. The program is perfect for those who are first-time parents in need of extra support with raising children or in understanding child development, developmental delays and health issues. It also is helpful for military families who have been separated and are working at being together again.
On a societal level, decades of research show that home-visiting programs such as MIECHV are effective and ultimately save money for taxpayers. Programs like this can lead to increased family self-sufficiency, lower health care costs and they reduce the need for remedial education. For every dollar spent on these efforts, at least $2 in future spending is saved.
To learn more, contact Healthy Start of North Central Florida and let them know if you are interested in the MIECHV program. Healthy Start care coordinators can guide those interested through the enrollment process. Once in the program, MIECHV parent educators will meet with parents one-on-one.
In Alachua County, call 352-337-1200 or visit www.HelpingBabiesGrow.org.
Mona Gil de Gibaja, MSW, Ph.D., is the program coordinator of the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program.