Virtual village

Taos First Steps: a program of Holy Cross Hospital

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Parenting can be hilarious, but honestly it gets downright scary, too. 

Like the first time you see that lime slime in the baby’s diaper. Or how about holding a folded-up, blind and wrinkled pink creature who totally depends on someone to clean and feed it, and you haven’t even learned to cook for yourself yet.

Maybe the worst is answering the phone, and your in-laws drop-in to see the grandchild, who of course is screaming in the playpen and, sin of sins, the house is a mess. Clearly you are world-class parent scum.

All of these and infinitely similar scenarios (see ScaryMommy memes all over the web) are common pitfalls of parenting whether you’re a single mom or dad, a first-time parental unit of husband and wife or grandparents, or even an adoptive or foster parent.

No matter if it’s one child or many, parenting takes a toll on adults, but the children bear the brunt of parenting stress. You need that vaunted village to raise this child, so who do you call?

Taos First Steps Home Visiting program, that’s who. This totally free-of-charge program celebrates with all families, of every income level, to help them take their first steps toward self-nurturing, providing support for the parent, thus ultimately, providing what’s best for the child.

First Steps comes in to help you save the day, turning you from your average, harassed and overworked child caretaker into feeling more like a Marvel Comics super hero (OK, that’s an exaggeration).

“My home visitor was able to listen to whatever I was feeling without judgement and to understand that if I was feeling something, my toddler would be feeling it, too,” Margaret Garcia is quoted describing her home visitor in an article by First Steps staff Beth Enson and Jaci Limburger, for the childcare magazine, Zero To Three (September 2017).

If this sounds like a prescription for “Stepford Wives,” cookie-cutter behavior-mod, think again. This is Emotional Intelligence, or EI, and it starts with the home visitors themselves. Once they know themselves, how they react emotionally and how to respectfully handle any situation life throws at them, it trickles down to everyone they interact with, especially the parenting people in their caseloads.

“We truly respect that the parent is the expert on their own child, that every parent wants the very best for their child,” said Jeannie Ross, First Steps director of community health services. That village everyone talks about is Ross’s Taos County bailiwick.

Equally important, Taos First Steps is part of the Paso a Paso community care network (see Paso a Paso sidebar), which allows First Steps home visitors help the parent(s) identify and then access whatever additional resources are needed at any given time.

First Steps serves parents with children pre-natal to age 3, after which they transition into different programs for each period of their lives, providing tools and support needed to be healthy and prepared for whatever comes.

Now located at 413 Sipapu St., along Salazar Road between Lower Ranchitos and La Posta roads, Taos First Steps began offering its free home visitation and support program in 2007 and has seen 852 families over the last 11 years. That’s 17,378 home visits, according to Program Director Jaci Imberger.

Instead of waiting until a call goes out to Child Protective Services with a report of child abuse, First Steps works to support a nurturing relationship between parent and child, thereby preventing the causes of early childhood suffering in the first place.

Ross and Imberger stress that prevention of child maltreatment needs sustained commitment and partnership among state and local government agencies, service providers, advocacy groups and families. Accordingly, First Steps acknowledges the support of its program funder New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, and its fiscal agent Holy Cross Hospital.

Taos First Steps takes the terror out of parenting. To sign up, call your health care provider or staff for a referral form, fill it out and they will fax it to First Steps. Or just drop by or call the office.

It’s a totally free and a win-win situation because happier families make a happier community, something everyone wants and deserves.

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