Edward Street partners lend a helping hand
In launching the Welcome Babies Project, Yolanda Ramos and Dodi Swope—consultants with the Together For Kids Coalition (TFKC), an Edward Street partner —have been getting tremendous support from other organizations.
Examples include: Pernet Family Health Service, the Worcester Family Partnership, the Worcester Healthy Baby Collaborative and Baby Cafe USA—which have numerous existing initiatives in place as coordinating community baby showers; offering safe-sleep programs, Cribettes, breast-feeding advice, and professional lactation care/intervention services; and providing baby car seats along with installation instructions.
"Welcome Babies is all about amplifying those existing efforts to ensure that all caregivers in need—not merely a small cross-section—can access those resources and services,” says Ramos.
"I'd like to give a special shout-out to the Worcester Family Partnership," adds Swope. "They are proving instrumental in helping us pull this together and figure out the best way to 'publish' information resources for both short-term, one-time caregiver support as well as long-term support."
The best is yet to come
Most recently, TKFC secured a $100,000 grant from UMass to support the operating expenses associated with Welcome Babies.
Over the next 12 months, Welcome Babies will move forward on the continuum of care to assess the needs of babies ages one through two. "Our plan is to assess caregiver needs along the continuum of care in bite-size nuggets," says Ramos.
"It's important to stress that, with Welcome Babies, we're not creating a program; instead, we're creating an early-childhood system that we're hoping the City will ultimately adopt and make sustainable within its own infrastructure,” added Ramos.
Soon, TFKC will be adding a page to their website (currently under development) that is devoted to the Welcome Babies initiative.
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Support from the start
The key issue driving Welcome Babies is that there is no welcoming now. The current educational infrastructure starts at K-12, but caregivers and parents need support earlier. Once children enter kindergarten and a formalized education system, there are initiatives and processes in place that connect caregivers with the assistance they need. Prior to that, there is essentially no centralized place where caregivers can go to access needed resources and referrals. And that's precisely the gap that Welcome Babies intends to fill.
"We don't want to be reactive like what occurred during the baby formula crisis, when anxious caregivers had no idea how to find the specific formula they needed," continues Swope. "Instead, we want to proactively put a centralized resource system in place that's up and running and ready to go.”
In terms of childhood development and the healthy socialization and upbringing of children, it's critical to stay ahead of the curve. To the extent possible, Welcome Babies needs to have the capability to anticipate and be prepared for emergencies—rather than be scrambling to figure things out things after-the-fact, once events have already started unfolding.
To keep the issues in perspective, every TFKC meeting highlights how many babies have recently arrived in the local community. There are approximately 2,000 infants born each year to Worcester families, so there’s an urgent need to have a centralized information and referral resource ready for their caregivers.
Looking well into the future, Welcome Babies will ideally be able to serve caregivers during the entire period from prenatal through the toddler years. As Ramos puts it: "We'd love to get to the point where we can continually broadcast to the community: ‘Come to Welcome Babies and you'll find all the resources you need!’
"Our dream … our passion … our vision is to make this happen," summarizes Ramos.. "It's a big task, but we're up for it. You just watch!"
To learn more about the Together For Kids Coalition or the Welcome Babies Project, visit www.togetherforkidscoalition.org or email Dodi Swope at