Building better families

CLARION – “Every child, beginning at birth, will be healthy and successful.”

This is the mission statement Michelle Walters, director of Building Families in Wright, Hamilton, and Humboldt counties, lives by.

“We develop programs that address the needs of children ages 5 and under,” said Walters. “Our services aid in having children ready to succeed in school, as well as developing safe and supportive communities with secure and nurturing families.” Funding comes from federal and state sources.

Families and children in need are made aware of the help Building Families can provide through numerous means.

“One way would be for people to contact us at our office,” she said. “The most effective way is our quarterly meetings when we bring together providers from several dozen service providers. We identify needs, people, programs which are being planned, and how our agency can provide the needed programs or funds to make those things happen effectively.”

Healthy Opportunities for Parents to Experience Success, or HOPES, is one of several initiatives undertaken by Building Families.

“It is an in-home, family-support program for children ages 0 to 3,” Walters said.

Parent Connection is a parent-education program designed to get parents together in a short-term setting to improve parenting skills and avoid child abuse.

“A parent might be having a behavioral problem of maybe getting a child to go to bed,” said Walters. “Together we might be able to help develop skills to help the parent get the behavior they want from the child.”

Additionally, some of Building Families’ programs are geared toward older children and adolescents.

The Bee Inspired CAPP program- which stands for Community Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention – seeks to empower young teens to make healthy, informed decisions by providing education and community awareness, Waters said.

“Studies show that parent-child communication is so important,” she said. “The best sexuality educators are parents and caregivers.”

Iowa Specialty Hospital has partnered with Building Families with a free and confidential teen clinic the third Thursday each month from 6 to 8 p.m..

“Our primary focus is to provide health education of all kinds to teens,” said Walters. “Physicians are on hand to provide any health services the teen might need.”

Building Families is very much a community effort, according to Walters.

“We appreciate all the volunteers who aid us to be successful and help us meet the needs of our residents,” she said.

“Every generation can contribute to the success of all of our families and contribute time, supplies, meals, and snacks.

“Building Families works hard to ensure that the programs we invest in are working to develop healthy, independent, and successful children and families.”

This is especially important as instances of child abuse reported in the Hamilton, Humboldt, and Wright counties are “well above the state average,” according to Walters.

“We have our work cut out for us,” she said.