Clark County has been selected to participate in an expansion of a state-wide program aimed at helping young families.
The HANDS¿program (Health Access Nurturing Development Services) is operated through local health departments in all counties in Kentucky, but the program was originally designed to work with any first-time parent, as long as services were initiated some time during pregnancy or before the child was 12 weeks old. Most participating families are served through the child’s second or third birthday.
Now, however, Clark and 59 other counties have received funding to serve multi-gravida families —¿parents who already have older children. Fifty counties were selected based on community demographics while 10 others were selected through a competitive grant process, including Clark.
“It just means we can serve any family, whether it’s their first baby or their third or fourth,” Shawna Thomerson, director of the program in Clark and Powell counties, said.
Through the program, parents receive information about everything from proper nutrition during pregnancy to important childhood milestones. Anyone interested in participating in the program can call the Health Department and set up a meeting with a facilitator to determine what services are needed.
HANDS¿is free to all participants and there are no income guidelines.
Families in both Clark and Powell counties are eligible for services through the Clark Health Department.
“We want to offer anybody that’s expecting or has a new baby all the resources in our community. We will share everything we know,”¿Thomerson said.
Although services vary depending on the family, Thomerson said most participants are involved in the program long-term.
“It’s whatever meets the needs of the family,”¿Thomerson said.
Typically, HANDS¿facilitators will meet with parents and child once a week in their home for one hour. As the child’s development progresses, facilitators will play games with the child designed to boost language and social skills. Facilitators also work with parents to help them interact more with their children and create important bonds. According to Thomerson, social and emotional health are just as important for school readiness as cognitive abilities, and HANDS¿focuses on all aspects of a child’s development.
“We want our program to be fun, and we want our families to be engaged,” Thomerson said.
HANDS¿information may be obtained by calling 744-8690, ext. 1009.
Contact Rachel Gilliam at email@example.com.