Anderson County Healthy Start
WHAT IS HEALTHY START?
Healthy Start/Healthy Families provides professional home visitor services to first-time parents of Anderson County whose babies are identified as being at risk for abuse or neglect. It is not an intervention program; it is a prevention program. Modeled after a highly successful program in Hawaii, its purpose is to work with high risk parents to help them develop good parenting skills, thus drastically reducing child abuse and neglect. Many counties in Tennessee have Healthy Start. The programs in these counties are supported by the Tennessee Maternal & Child Health Services (federally funded). Anderson County has not been funded because, although we are in the midst of a needy rural Appalachian area, our average income is above the State guidelines. Local sources have kept the program going. With recent drastic cuts, however, Healthy Start is presently able to meet only a small part of the need.
WHY IS IT NEEDED?
Many families are at risk because their members lack an adequate education leading to a good job with health benefits. They may lack transportation or a good family support system. They may be experiencing depression. These deficits typically result in substandard housing, substance abuse, child abuse, even criminal behavior. In other cases, a single mom is struggling to raise one or several children without the possibility of adequate child care, car and telephone that would make employment possible.
WHAT FAMILIES NEED HEALTHY START?
Mothers-to-be who are considered at risk by obstetricians, social workers, the hospital or the health department are referred to the Healthy Start staff. Staff members then assess the parents’ risk for abusing or neglecting their children.
WHAT DO HEALTHY START WORKERS DO?
Visit: Each family assessed as being in need of Anderson County Healthy Start is invited to participate as space allows. If the family agrees, it is assigned a family support worker who then visits the family in its home weekly, or as needed, until the child starts kindergarten.
Teach: Family support workers demonstrate skills that help the mother learn to care for her baby’s physical needs. By learning to recognize and respond to baby’s sounds and expressions, parents learn to communicate with baby at an early age. And by having fun with baby, they develop a positive relationship. All these skills not only help the family bond with their baby, they also lead to the development of a child who has acceptable social behavior, a growing vocabulary and the potential for success in school.
Coordinate: Family support workers help families access the myriad community based agencies whose services they need, such as dental and medical clinics, literacy programs, the library, local schools, and the employment office.
Protect: Should it become necessary to protect the child, crisis management is provided by the family support worker.
WHAT DOES HEALTHY START COST?
It costs $3000/child/year. This cost should be compared with the approximately $50,000/year for foster care which would be spent if the child were removed from the home. Healthy Start not only saves money; it saves the heartache of wasted lives. The program is free for the families, though they are expected to work hard to develop healthy parenting skills. “Protect Kids, Reduce Crime, Save Money” is the report of a rigorous study sponsored by the group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Tennessee. This group is composed of sheriffs, police chiefs, prosecutors, other law enforcement officers, and survivors of violence. Their report points to strong evidence that abused or neglected children are far more likely than others to engage in criminal activity. They conclude that a quality in-home parent coaching program such as Healthy Start is by far the most effective way to prevent child abuse. Healthy Families America states that for every $1 invested in prevention, $7 is saved.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
The Anderson County program is now 10 years old. The cumulative results through 2009 are:
- 96% of Healthy Start babies are at their age appropriate developmental level
- 100% of the babies have a “medical home” , well baby checks and age appropriate immunizations
- Of the 280 babies enrolled prenatally, 266 were normal birth weight, 13 babies weighed 4-5 pounds and one baby weighed 3-4 pounds
- Of the 356 at-risk babies enrolled in the program, only 7 have been removed from the home for neglect, a rate of less that 1% compared to 12% nationally
- NO child has been removed for abuse
- Of the 356 moms who have been involved in the program, only 20 have had second pregnancies, a rate of 5% as compared to 22% in the general population
- When monitors from the national Healthy Start office came to evaluate the program, the report stated that Anderson County’s was an elite “model program.”
Healthy Start does more than prevent child abuse and neglect. The program also seeks to enhance child development and support parents toward a positive future. Fathers and the extended family are valued participants if they wish to be.
HEALTHY START OF ANDERSON COUNTY
Sponsored by: Grants from the City of Oak Ridge, Anderson County, United Way, community donations and a generous anonymous benefactor.
The number of families served is limited only by funding.
Supporters of Healthy Start of Anderson County hope that individuals like you, and groups to which you belong, might consider joining with others to sponsor a Healthy Start family each year as a way to support a good future for a baby and the baby’s family.
Contact Anderson County Healthy Start at 865-483-7377, or email Marcia Slagle, email@example.com.