Program helping women changes name, approach

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - A local program aimed at teaching young moms how to take care of their children has a new name and a new approach to teaching the young women.

The program once known as "Thrive" in Greene County has undergone a lot of changes. Now part of the "Healthy Families America" system, Healthy Families Arkansas is bettering the lives of young mothers and their children with a more "family approach" to the curriculum.
"I know how to take care of a baby now," Olivia Henson told Region 8 News. "If it wasn't for them I'd still be pretty clueless."
Henson was referred to Healthy Families Arkansas by her school nurse when she became pregnant in high school. Through the program, she sits down once a week with family support specialist, Amanda Baldwin, to go over things about motherhood.
One topic Baldwin goes over with young mothers is shaken baby syndrome.
"We want to be sure that parents are aware that it's okay to lay the baby down in a safe place, step away, breathe, calm down and then be able to go back and take care of your baby," Baldwin said. Part of a grant they received from Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) helps to fund information they give out to the mothers. It also gave the program a third staff member.
Baldwin said this new system allows them to act as a strong support system for the young mothers.
"Some may have a family that's very supportive, some may not have a family that's very supportive because they got pregnant and so they need someone who can support them because we want a healthy baby, we want a healthy mom and we want a healthy home," Baldwin said.
Through Healthy Families Arkansas, the young mothers are also encouraged to get an education.
"Our ultimate goal is to get them to go back to school or to get some type of education if they don't have it already," Baldwin told Region 8 News.
It's a success that Henson has seen. She graduated from high school and is now enrolled at BRTC in Paragould. It's something she said would have been difficult to do without help from Healthy Families Arkansas.
"I know when I really got discouraged, Mrs. Amanda really gave me some good pep talks to keep me going. So it definitely would've been harder to graduate," Henson said.
Another change to the program is when these young women could be referred to the program. The women can only be referred if they are prenatal or their child is under 3 months old.
The women are referred to the program through places like their school districts, doctors offices or the Health Department.

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