Celebrating the Wins! Invest in Children Success Stories
UPK Scholarships Keep High-Quality Preschool Within Reach
The Winchester Family's Story
Family Life Childcare Center of Lakewood is one of Invest in Children’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) sites. Along with a central focus on enhancing the quality of the preschool experience, UPK works to keep high quality early care and education accessible to both lower and moderate income families by providing scholarships. These scholarships are what make the difference for many families in their effort to ensure their children have the best possible start on the road to Kindergarten. Here is one local family’s experience in their own words.
“When Family Life Childcare Center of Lakewood approached my husband and I about the UPK Scholarship, we really didn’t think that we would qualify for the support, as both he and I work full time. We were so surprised and felt so fortunate that we did... education is something we value and we wanted Anna to have a strong start. It was such a blessing to know that we could afford a high-quality preschool education, and that she could remain in the center she had been placed in since she was 18 months old.”
In 2016, the UPK program made available 2,000 high quality preschool slots that were eligible for scholarship assistance to families earning up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Simultaneously, a successful public and private fundraising effort was undertaken to double this number. Invest in Children is very pleased to announce that beginning with the 2017-18 school year, that goal will be realized.
MomsFirst Gives Caring and Hope to Mother in Crisis
Paulette was pleasantly surprised when she learned she was pregnant. Already the mother of two boys, she celebrated the news that she was expecting a girl, and chose the name, Andrea. Unsure of what the journey would bring, she turned to the MomsFirst program for support and caring. MomsFirst receives a portion of its funding from Invest in Children.
Maria Lane, a MomsFirst Community Health Worker at Lexington Bell Community Center, helped Paulette make wise choices during pregnancy. “Ms. Lane encouraged me to make my appointments on time. I could hear her voice ringing in my head. I knew she would be on me if I didn’t go”, she said.
Joy turned to concern when Paulette’s doctor realized there was excess fluid around her stomach. An appointment was scheduled to induce labor. Paulette was determined to make her due date, but after consulting with Ms. Lane, she knew that proceeding with the induction was the safest decision.
When Paulette’s water broke, she became very weak. “I remember a call, people coming from everywhere, rushing to my bed, calling out numbers, checking me.” She recalls being rolled out of the room quickly.
After being in a coma for two days, she was finally able to breathe on her own. The doctors explained that she had experienced Amniotic Fluid Embolism, a life threatening condition that occurs when amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream. It took its effects on the baby. Andrea was diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), brain damage that stems from a reduction of oxygen and blood.
It was a week before Paulette was able to hold Andrea, and she asked the doctor if Andrea would live. “He said he really didn’t know. He told me once they bring her temperature up, they’ll see how she takes to oxygen.” Andrea proved to be a champion, and there was hope she would be okay. “I am glad I listened to Ms. Lane because I am sure it would have been over. This program is wonderful. “
After arriving home, continued support from MomsFirst made recovery easier. Ms. Lane gave her another shoulder to lean on, helped her find baby items, and even helped direct her to employment. Paulette says of Ms. Lane, “She was like having a family member come and check on me, like my own sister.”
Maria Lane loves knowing that she is keeping families together, providing resources, and seeing positive outcomes. Paulette’s story is one of triumph and thanksgiving. “She had a rough delivery. Today she is alive; her baby is alive and thriving.” says Lane.
Paulette was inspired to help other women in her community become healthier and stronger. She was directed to Birthing Beautiful Communities, a team of community doulas who provide education and support to expectant mothers, where she is currently in training. Inspired by Ms. Lane, she decided to make her own impact. “Some people don’t have family, so then there is the community. Ms. Lane demonstrated that.” In the community, there’s MomsFirst!
Newborn Home Visit Had Unexpected and Lifesaving Benefits
One Mom's Close Call
Cuyahoga County’s Welcome Home Program, funded by Invest in Children and implemented by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, makes possible a home visit by a Registered Nurse for eligible moms and their babies. Being a mom with a newborn is always a stressful time, and can be a time when certain health problems begin, or become acute.
During one recent visit, the Welcome Home nurse noted that the mother’s blood pressure was elevated to a dangerous level. The reading was serious enough she took it several times to make sure it was correct. She strongly encouraged Mom to contact her doctor immediately to be evaluated. Mom was having headaches and a lot of swelling in the lower extremities, but she didn’t seem overly concerned and it appeared she might not act on the nurse’s urgent advice.
Recognizing how precarious Mom’s health was, the Welcome Home nurse kept pressing the importance of the issue and that she should contact her doctor. Eventually the mom asked, “Could I die from this?” The nurse explained that untreated blood pressure in this range was a very serious risk factor for a stroke or heart attack, either of which could be fatal or leave Mom with a life-changing disability. The seriousness of her blood pressure was now fully understood and Mom looked alarmed. She immediately shifted her attention to who could take care of her children, while she sought care.
A few weeks later the nurse circled back with Mom for a short follow-up call, and Mom was extremely appreciative for how concerned she had been. She told the nurse that later that day she had called EMS to take her to the hospital because she was now very worried. When EMS came they smelled a gas leak in her apartment. The fire department had the gas turned off to prevent an explosion. Mom also stated that she was admitted to the hospital for 3 days due to her elevated blood pressure.
The gas leak has been fixed, and Mom’s blood pressure is under control. A long list of serious problems were averted through the simple act of a home visiting nurse stopping by to check on a mom and her new baby.
ABC Program Assists Family Affected by Domestic Violence
One Family's Story
The Attachment and Biobehavorial Catchup Program (ABC) funded by Invest in Children provides coaching and support to parents and caregivers of young children who have experienced maltreatment, disruptions in care, or other trama. The following is one family’s story. The sensitive nature of this program requires us to not include any identifiable information or photos.
Recently, a mother with boys one and two years of age, became involved with Children and Family Services due to domestic violence incidents that were witnessed by the children. The family entered the ABC program to help mom learn, process, and effectively respond to the negative effects witnessing domestic violence was having on her children’s social and emotional development.
Several dynamics were playing out between the mother and her boys. The older child frequently became physically aggressive with her and with his younger brother. When this would happen, the younger child became passive and withdrew from interactions.
In the ABC Program, video-feedback and real-time coaching is combined with traditional therapy techniques to assist clients. The therapist will videotape interactions between parents and their children, and then play them back to the parents while pointing out certain behaviors seen in the actions of both parent and child and giving instruction on alternate approaches.
The ABC therapist helped mom understand how the children's behaviors stemmed from the violence they had witnessed, and that the boys were feeling scared, unsafe, and confused. They were unsure how to signal their needs. She also explained how the passiveness in the younger child was his way of withdrawing and not getting too close to mom. He didn’t want to upset his older brother and then be turned away when she needed to respond to his aggressiveness.
Mom soon began responding to the children differently. She started to offer herself to the older child and tried providing nurturing attention when he became upset, versus distracting him. Mom also began setting limits when he would dominate toys, food, and her attention. By the end of the intervention, the younger child was more interactive in the family setting and the older child was much less aggressive -- expressing his needs more clearly with words.
The safety and well-being of the children looks more promising now due to the effective delivery of the ABC Program's intervention technique.
Welcome Home Program Supports Very-High-Risk New Mom
It is often said that babies don’t come with instruction manuals, but in Cuyahoga County they can come with tech support!
Through the Welcome Home Newborn Home Visiting program funded by Invest in Children, and implemented by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, eligible moms can receive a visit from a registered nurse and learn about the health and growth of their baby. The nurse also helps assess other pressing needs and provides coordinated assistance and referrals. Consider the recent case of “Denise.”
Denise is an 18-year-old, first-time mom who recently “aged-out” of the foster care system. While still in the hospital, she was approached by the Welcome Home Childfind Specialist and offered a home visit. She accepted, and the visit was scheduled by Susan Collins, a Welcome Home registered nurse.
During the visit, Susan quickly realized that Denise was facing a number of critical issues that could affect her health, and the health and safety of her baby. Denise and her partner were living in a sparsely furnished apartment that had only a mattress, some plastic lawn furniture, and a baby swing – meaning there was no safe place for the baby to sleep. Also, Denise was suffering from post-partum depression and experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety. Susan conducted a short assessment and Denise scored 23 points on a 30 point scale, where any result over 10 suggests that professional support is needed. Susan coordinated with Ohio Guidestone for Denise to get counseling. She also made arrangements for Denise to receive a free portable crib through the Cribs for Kids program so the baby would not need to sleep on the mattress with Denise – a risky practice often seen in sleep-related infant deaths.
Denise’s situation was precarious enough that Susan scheduled a follow-up visit where she reviewed the importance of a safe sleeping arrangement and the use of the crib. Denise was also provided information on family planning options and how to access other community resources. Importantly, Susan was able to confirm that Denise was working with her counselor, feeling better, and doing better for herself and her baby.
Mom and baby have a long road ahead, but the Welcome Home program has helped point them in the right direction.
How SPARK Helped A Whole Family Help Its Youngest Member
Mark’s family emigrated from Uganda to the Cleveland area when he was one. His parents each speak a different dialect of their native language, as well as read and write in basic English. His older brother and sister also speak multiple languages. The transition to a new home in America, as well as multiple languages spoken in his home, combined to limit Mark’s English proficiency, even at the early age of four. Mark was an ideal candidate for SPARK -- a program for 3 and 4 year olds who need additional help getting their early literacy skills to a level that allows them to be fully ready for Kindergarten. In Cuyahoga County, SPARK is an Invest in Children program expertly implemented by Family Connections of Northeast Ohio.
Mark was a typical four-year old boy. Like some children his age, his language and literacy skills were lagging a bit behind his peers -- enough so, that when his parents went to enroll him in a preschool, the school’s evaluation suggested the SPARK Program. Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) is a home-based early literacy intervention program focused on helping parents to further advance their child’s school readiness.
A SPARK Parent Partner was assigned to help Mark’s whole family help him catch up. Instruction was provided, appropriate reading materials were given, and ongoing coaching was conducted to ensure total support by all of those most close to him. The whole family did the SPARK lessons together, with amazing results.
Mark’s mother recently shared with their Parent Partner that she and SPARK, “…helped Mark build an excellent foundation.” She added, “The guidance you gave, together with the free reading material you provided, really pushed Mark as an emerging reader. In one year our child went from knowing his letters and a few letter sounds to reading at Kindergarten level.”
Mark is currently enrolled in Kindergarten, and his latest report card shows his reading and comprehension are above semester grade level! If not for SPARK, and the dedicated follow through of his family and Family Connections, Mark would have entered Kindergarten well behind his peers, and may have never caught up. Congratulations Mark!
The Important Role of Special Needs Childcare Technical Assistance
Few things can be as stressful and difficult as raising a young child who has acute medical special needs. One of the most worrisome times is when turning the care of your child over to someone else, even for just a few hours. As a parent, you have spent endless hours learning about your child’s condition, getting specialized training in their care, and controlling their environment to minimize risks. Now it’s time for your child to begin preschool. You are worried, but you are not alone. Your child’s preschool teachers are also apprehensive about their ability to give your child all of the close attention and care they need. Invest in Children’s program of Special Needs Child Care Technical Assistance works to ease this important transition point. Consider the recent case of E.W. of Cleveland.
E.W. is a 3 year old who was recently diagnosed with epilepsy, and who has just started to attend preschool. Having no previous experience caring for a child with epilepsy, the school requested seizure training for the staff. To get that training, they contacted Starting Point – lead agency for Invest in Children's Special Needs Child Care Program.
A Registered Nurse first met with E.W.’s mom to obtain consent and a medical history, and spent extra time discussing seizure first aid since the diagnosis was so recent. All of E.W.’s seizures had occurred while he was sleeping or napping, so his mother was concerned that he would have an unwitnessed seizure during nap time at preschool. The nurse reviewed with her the training his teachers would receive, and told her she would suggest to the staff that E.W.'s cot be moved close to the teachers. She also told her the staff would be trained to record any abnormal behaviors or occurrences and share them with her, so she could inform his doctor.
At the first Technical Assistance training session for the preschool’s staff, the teachers expressed their concerns about caring for E.W.. They were nervous and "unsure of what to expect." The nurse spent time with all of the teachers and staff who would interact with E.W. to review what a seizure may look like, seizure first aid, and training on the use of a special intervention if the seizure lasted longer than 5 minutes. The staff asked for and received additional training, just to make sure everyone knew what to do.
Within a few weeks of the training, E.W. had a 5+ minute seizure while at school. The staff provided proper first aid and was able to correctly give E.W. a needed treatment and transport him to the hospital. The preschool staff have shared how thankful they were for the considerable amount of training they received on how to handle this very situation. E.W.’s lead teacher stated "Even though I was scared and nervous, I just kept repeating in my head what I had learned!" E.W. is back at the center with his friends and teachers, and his mother takes great comfort in knowing the staff can meet this needs when she is not there.