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Congresswoman jackie walorski (r-IN) visitis Healthy Families America® program in st. joseph county, indiana

Rep. Walorski spent time visiting with families and staff from Family & Children’s Center who operate the Healthy Families St. Joseph program

Congresswoman Walorski speaks with a mother who receives services from Family & Children's Center in St. Joseph County.

Congresswoman Walorski speaks with a mother who receives services from Family & Children's Center in St. Joseph County.

(ST. JOSEPH, IN) - Congresswoman Jackie Walorski spent several hours on Wednesday, April 19 meeting with her constituents who participate in an evidence-based family support program in St. Joseph County.

While visiting Family & Children's Center in South Bend, IN, Congresswoman Walorski met with parents who have benefitted from the Healthy Families St. Joseph program as well as the dedicated staff who spend their days ensuring that children in Indiana have the chance to thrive.

“Evidence-based programs like Healthy Families are helping Hoosier parents thrive and giving children the chance to achieve their full potential,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn more about how this program serves our community and to hear directly from families who have benefited from it.”
"For decades, the Family & Children's Center has been an advocate for creating a strong home environment and support system for every child in St. Joseph County,” said Logan Anderson, Board Chair of Family & Children's Center. “We appreciate having the opportunity to meet with the Congresswoman and know she will be advocating for us."

Family & Children's Center operates Healthy Families St. Joseph County, a voluntary home visiting program which uses the Healthy Families America model and is funded by the federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, also known as MIECHV. MIECHV is currently up for reauthorization and has been taken up by the House Ways & Means Committee, on which Rep. Walorski began serving this year.

"We have incredibly passionate and mission-driven team at the Family & Children's Center, and I'm happy we were able to share some success stories from the families participating in our Healthy Families program,” said Roxanne Ultz, Executive Director of the Family & Children's Center. “Our mission is to build strong families and healthy children and with programs such as Healthy Families, we are able to make progress."

MIECHV funding has resulted in a proven track record of success in improving outcomes for children and families in Indiana. In 2016, for programs receiving MIECHV dollars, 60% of families who had less than 12 years of education went on the further education by at least one year, helping parents find better jobs to support their growing families. Additionally, Less than 1% of children enrolled at 12 months had a substantiated report of abuse and/or neglect five years later.

“Healthy Families America uses an infant mental health and relational development approach that benefits not only the families we serve, but also the communities those families live in,” said Cyd Wessel, National Director of Healthy Families America. “Our program sites at places like Family & Children's Center are making sure that all Hoosier families get what they need in order to raise the healthiest children possible.”

Nationally, MIECHV programs have shown a substantial improvement in key outcome areas for families, including improving school readiness in children, reducing child abuse and neglect, and improving family economic self-sufficiency. MIECHV is also supported by policymakers on both sides of the aisle, including Congresswoman Walorski.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program that has shown so much promise in improving people’s lives” said Congresswoman Walorski.

Use these links to learn more about Healthy Families St. Joseph County and the importance of MIECHV.

Healthy Families America® featured at congressional briefing

At a Congressional Hearing on the Empirical Basis for Home Visiting, a father in a Columbus, OH Healthy Families program got the chance to share his story with legislators and staff.

On the far left Scot Lacy, HFA participant, sits beside his friend and home visitor, Betsy Leal.

On the far left Scot Lacy, HFA participant, sits beside his friend and home visitor, Betsy Leal.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 13, 2017 — Today in our nation's capitol, lawmakers and their staff had the opportunity to learn more about evidence-based home visiting programs like Healthy Families America. Thanks to the courage of one Healthy Families participant from Ohio, the lawmakers were able to hear about the power of the program firsthand. Below, you too can read Scot's story.

"Hi, my name is Scot, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about the role Healthy Families plays in my life and how they helped my son, Anthony, stay on track developmentally.

I chased Anthony’s mother, Brenda, for about two years before we got together. We worked in catering together at the fairgrounds. After a while, we decided to start a life together. 

Some time later, Brenda was having some medical tests done, and before they could do them, they had to perform a pregnancy test. She had the test done twice, and both times the pregnancy tests came back negative. Later, the clinic referred her to OSU, where she had another test done. This time, the pregnancy test came back positive, and they told us she was four months pregnant. We were surprised to say the least.

Brenda had a high-risk pregnancy due to high blood pressure. We were in and out of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center constantly. During the third trimester, they told us the baby was in a breach position and the plan was to manually turn him and maybe an emergency C-section. Anthony must have heard that through the womb, because he turned himself around. That’s when I realized he was going to do things his own way.

Nearly two months before the due date, Brenda came back from the store feeling sick. Before I could put the groceries away, her water broke.  I couldn’t believe it, but I called 911.  Within seconds of getting off the phone, the baby started coming.  I delivered him right there on the bed at 8:17 pm on March 8th, 2016, before the ambulance even got there. He was 2 pounds, 13 ounces. 

The ambulance finally arrived, and they got Anthony to the hospital.  Upon arriving Mr. Anthony was breathing on his own and drinking out of a bottle as soon as we got to the hospital.  He was moved to an incubator where he had to live at NICU.  I then had to report for work a few hours later that morning.

Brenda and I were at the hospital nonstop. I would come to feed the baby after work. Brenda would stay all day until the last bus line ran at midnight. I told Anthony; 'All you have to do is get up to 4 lbs., and we can blow this popsicle stand. You can have your own room, invite other babies over for parties, 24 hour room service, I will make you vice president of my empire and the best thing of all NO INCUBATOR.'

He must have heard that, because he started sucking down those bottles. We got discharged 20 days early. The nurses argued with me about how he was going to be developmentally behind. That’s when Healthy Families got involved. We signed up for Healthy Families in the hospital. 

From left: Supervisor Suzanna, Home Visitor Betsy, and father Scot enjoying their time in Washington D.C.

We were already going to Moms to Be, which is how we got the car seat to take him home, but we liked the idea of someone coming to the house. With him being so little, it was a major production to take him anywhere. Our home visitor is Miss Betsy. Brenda and Anthony took to her right away. I was surprised, because Anthony was still getting used to being around people. Miss Betsy visits us every Monday. 

She taught us developmental exercises we could do to establish neural pathways in his brain. A baby’s brain works like a computer – once they do something once, they learn how to do easier and faster every time after.

Betsy gave me the idea for the man cave. Anthony and I would go in there together, put on jazz music, and do these exercises along with other developmental activities; therefore coining the phrase “jazzercize”.  As I turned his room into a man-cave, I got to watch him learn the movements as these activities progressed him towards crawling.  

Miss Betsy kept bringing more activities which encouraged gross motor skills, cognitive play, speech and language skills to further his development. I’ve watched him progress further and further as she visited more. She also brought activities for Brenda, who worked on speech, language and cognitive play skills, while I worked gross and fine motor coordination in the man-cave

Miss Betsy also gave me the idea to turn the living room into the Wild, Wild West.  We’d put a bunch of toys in the living room in a strategically arranged maze.  His favorite toy was placed all the way in the back and was guarded by the big blue bunny. The big blue bunny was the sheriff and had his favorite toy Mr. Ducky in jail. Anthony had to crawl through the maze of all the toys, playing with them along the way.  He had to wrestle with the bunny in order to get Mr. Ducky out of jail. Crawling through the maze and playing with the toys worked on gross motor skills, while wrestling the bunny worked on fine motor skills. 

If we didn’t have Betsy, I’d would have to take time off work to spend time to research these developmental activities to try to keep my son on track.  Because we have an expert coming in our home ever week, we can focus on spending time with Anthony and using the tools she gives us.

The doctors say he’s still small for his age, and he probably won't be able to play for the Lakers as their power forward, but otherwise he’s on track—developmentally, intellectually, socially, gross and fine motor skills.  If we didn’t have Betsy, I’d be spending a lot time researching trying to put together my own program for Anthony.  We would lose a lot of time, therefore putting Anthony further behind in his development.

You could go to a hospital, a school or the library to try and get all this stuff, but what Betsy brings every week is tailored to Anthony and where he is developmentally at that time. They come to where you’re comfortable and where the baby is comfortable, and give you tools and information you can use right away. Miss Betsy has her own nurturing and strategic style of playing with Mr. Anthony, which helps us learn the skills to work with him.  Plus, she gives Brenda and me different things to do based on our parenting styles.  You can’t get that at the hospital, a school or the library.

Healthy Families brings experts into your home every week and you can ask them anything. Their compassion is off the charts and the developmental activities and information they bring is more than beneficial, it is essential to bridge the gap in Mr. Anthony’s developmental growing curve.  These are people that know what they’re doing and they have your best interests at heart. They don’t do all the work for you; they do half and you have to do the other half. 

Betsy gave me the developmental activities, exercises and the inspiration, and I came up with the Man Cave, Flying Lessons, Ninja School and the Wild, Wild West which are all different scenarios that incorporate all the information that was provided for us to help us work with Anthony.

Thanks to Betsy and Healthy Families, they have brought us instruments and information to help us become better parents.  Brenda and I get to enjoy our time with Anthony, knowing that what we’re doing with him is helping him shrink his developmental growing curve and to help him stay on track. 

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